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Black leaders endorse Senator Durbin over Willie Wilson

U.S. Representative Danny K. Davis (D-IL-07), four Black aldermen, and Black elected officials on Chicago’s West Side have endorsed longtime Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) for his 2020 re-election campaign.

Other Black leaders who have endorsed Durbin include Alderman Emma Mitts (37th Ward), who convened Monday and endorsed Senator Durbin, including Congressman Davis, Alderman Walter Burnett (27th Ward), Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, Cook County Commissioner Dennis Deer, Alderman Jason Ervin (28th Ward), State Representative Camille Lilly, MWRD Commissioner Barbara McGowan, Alderman Chris Taliaferro, and State Representative Jawaharial “Omar” Williams.

“Senator Durbin is a person we can count on to address the issues that matter most to our constituents, and someone who stands up for justice and Democratic values locally and on the national level,” said Congressman Davis. “Senator Durbin has been a fighter for us on issues including criminal justice reform, bringing new, good-paying jobs to Illinois, and reducing gun violence. We put our trust in Senator Durbin to do the right thing in tough situations, and to stand up against the Trump administration.”

“I am honored to receive an endorsement from this distinguished group of leaders, and I look forward to continuing our work together to bring needed change to Chicago and across Illinois,” said Durbin. “Together, we’ll continue to focus on lifting up our most vulnerable communities.”

The endorsements give fresh momentum to Durbin, who’s seeking his fifth term after serving 22 years in office. Durbin’s Black support will be tested in 2020 by opponent Willie Wilson, who announced his run for the seat on September 3.

Wilson gained prominence during the Chicago mayoral primary, where he won 13 predominately Black wards and captured 10 percent of the vote overall. He also ran for mayor in 2015, both times garnering about 10 percent of the vote. He also ran for U.S. president in 2016.

In announcing his campaign, Wilson accused Durbin of taking the Black vote for granted.

“I am sick and I am tired of the same ol’ politicians like Senator Dick Durbin taking advantage of minorities, having not been fair and his record reflecting that…the same ol’ guard propping themselves up on the backs of minorities and selling them down the river,” Wilson said in a statement. “I MUST stand up for those who feel they do not matter or do not have a voice… for those who can’t seem to get a fair shake. His record shows he has taken the minority vote for granted and hasn’t put anything back of significance in the 20 plus years he’s been a U.S. Senator.”

After Black leaders on the West Side endorsed him, Durbin highlighted some of his top initiatives to help African-American communities in Illinois, including:

  • Fighting for Common Sense Gun Reforms, Tackling the Root Causes of Gun Violence: Senator Durbin has fought for common-sense gun reform measures, including requiring background checks for gun sales and banning assault weapons while also addressing the root causes of gun violence–the lack of economic opportunities, poverty, and trauma. The Senator’s main initiative to address the root causes of gun violence is the Chicago HEAL Initiative. Launched in 2018 by Senator Durbin and 10 of the largest hospitals serving Chicago, the Chicago HEAL Initiative is a three-year project to make a measurable difference in the well-being of Chicago’s residents and specifically in 18 of Chicago’s neighborhoods with the highest rates of violence, poverty, and inequality. Recognizing their roles as the leading employers, the hospitals have made 16 tangible commitments on actions—outside of their traditional health care roles—to uplift their communities, including through local hiring and procurement, job training and mentorship, housing, and mental health activities.
  • Leading the Charge on Criminal Justice Reform: Senator Durbin was the lead Democratic sponsor of the most significant criminal justice reform legislation in a generation, the First Step Act, which makes federal drug sentencing fairer for non-violent offenses, decreases recidivism by providing programming to inmates and helps them successfully return to their communities, and invests savings in programs that help reduce crime. Durbin also authored the Fair Sentencing Act, signed into law by President Obama, which lowered the unjust sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. African Americans are 80 percent of the individuals who benefited from Durbin’s Fair Sentencing Act, the first legislation ever to reduce federal drug sentences.
  • Addressing Black Mother and Infant Mortality: In Illinois, Black infant mortality rates are three times that of white infants and Black women are six times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. Senator Durbin joined U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly in introducing the Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness (MOMMA) Act, which would improve best practices and access to culturally competent care for mothers and their babies and expand Medicaid coverage for new mom’s postpartum for one year.

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