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ELECTIONS 2020, STATE HOUSE Ryan Podges, gay man challenges Feigenholtz for 12th Dist.
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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Ryan Podges is a political newbie—and his initial foray into the electoral arena may be a daunting one.

That is because Podges, a gay Chicago attorney, is taking on longtime 12th District incumbent Rep. Sara Feigenholtz in the Democratic primary. ( Marty Malone is also in this race. ) However, Podges said he is.not one to shy away from challenges.

Windy City Times: This is your first time running for political office. What's been the biggest surprise for you so far?

Ryan Podges: Well, every step has been a learning experience for me. It's been challenging, it's been rewarding, it's been time-consuming. I think the most gratifying thing—and what I'm somewhat surprised about—is how eager people have been to have new blood in the political process. I've been circulating my petition the last couple weeks [he needs 500 signatures], and I wasn't sure how I'd be perceived, but people have been absolutely outstanding.

WCT: The incumbent is popular, and has been a longtime ally of the LGBTQ community. What is she, in your opinion, not doing?

PD: I think people want their representatives to be accountable. A lot of the leaders who have been in office a long time have not been as accountable in year 22 as in year two of their office. I think people want to have new faces and new solutions.

WCT: So you feel her ideas are a little stale?

PD: One of the things I hear pretty regularly out in the community is that, since the district is [heavily] LGBTQ, there should be someone leading the charge for LGBTQ people. While I don't think there have been any horribly egregious votes, it's important that the person leads the charge statewide for LGBTQ people.

WCT: Tell me about the 12th District.

PD: The district includes parts of the Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, East Lake View and a small portion of Uptown.

WCT: You're a labor/employment attorney. How has that occupation helped you in this political race, if at all?

PD: Well, I have a lot of experience representing workers and unions, and working with unions and other attorneys on issues. So, you know, negotiating and being an advocate for people—those are two key parts of being a state representative. Also, there's listening to people and being able to work with the other side to get things done.

WCT: I was looking at your platform, and there are some interesting ideas there. For example, you mention consolidating school districts.

PD: There are a lot of school districts across the state; I think Illinois has the third most in the country, after California and Texas—and there are other states ahead of Illinois, population-wise. There are many districts in the state that don't have all three levels—elementary, middle and high schools—and there are high administrative costs. It would behoove us to consolidate districts to save administrative fees and put money back into classrooms.

WCT: Since we're discussing education, I'm curious: What are your thoughts on California allowing college athletes to be paid for endorsement deals?

PD: It's interesting. I think it's a fair thing to do. If you're in music school in college, you can profit off your music; if you're an author, you can publish your work and make money off it; if you're a student-athlete, you can't. There seems to be a disconnect there. Now I'm not sure how it'll be implemented; it won't be allowed until 2023, I believe.

WCT: What do you think is the biggest problem for the LGBTQ community?

PD: I'd say it's access to healthcare. I think LGBTQ people in my district are some of the most fortunate in the state because there are a lot of resources—but, statewide, they're not as fortunate. I'd like those resources to be available to everybody.

Also, there are a lot of homeless people who identify as LGBTQ. That's a shame, and the state should be looking into that.

WCT: You mentioned LGBTQ representation earlier. What are your thoughts on Pete Buttigieg?

PD: I think he's a great role model. He's highly intelligent and well-spoken; I think he represents LGBTQ people very well. As far as I can tell, he's been an exemplary citizen. I'm proud of the way he's been running his race.

WCT: If you could ask our current president one thing, what would it be?

PD: [Pauses and then laughs] There are a lot of questions I'd like to ask. It's hard to narrow it down to one—it really is.

The two things I think about when it comes to Trump are difficulty telling the truth, and bigotry and racism. I'd ask him why he has a hard time telling the truth, and why he feels he has to stoke the flames of bigotry and racism. He seems to be more concerned with pointing out our differences than finding solutions.

WCT: What's your biggest asset in this race, and your biggest drawback?

PD: My biggest drawback is that I'm running for the first time. It's very difficult to take on a longtime incumbent. That's why very few people have done it—but it can be done.

My biggest asset in this race is my ability to listen to people and understand what matters to them as well as my ability to bring change to state government.

See .

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