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ELECTIONS 2020 U.S. CONGRESS (7TH DIST.) Kina Collins on championing women's, LGBT issues
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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On her website, Kina Collins calls herself "a fighter"—and she now finds herself in a classic David-versus-Goliath battle against longtime Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Danny Davis in the March 17 primary. The gun-violence prevention and healthcare advocate recently talked with Windy City Times.

Windy City Times: You're going up against a longtime incumbent—putting some people in the mind of [current Congresswoman] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Kina Collins: yes. I think the congresswoman is amazing, but I tell people, "I'm the first Kina Collins."

WCT: What is the incumbent not doing right?

KC: Congressman Davis has been in office for 22 years, and there's a stagnancy in the district. He's one of the most absent congresspeople but, beyond that, I think it's about holding the Democratic Party accountable for elevating leadership. They're not going to just hand that over to an under-30, working-class Black woman from [the] Austin [neighborhood], right? So we're pushing the envelope.

WCT: So would you classify yourself as a progressive?

KC: I think I have a progressive platform. I really do see myself as an independent reformer, though—someone who comes with the perspective of the working class and who deals with the intersectionality of discrimination.

WCT: Could you talk about the Illinois Council on Women and Girls Act, which also includes pro-LGBTQ elements?

KC: I co-authored House Bill 5544—the Illinois Council on Women and Girls Act—in 2017, and it was a direct response to Donald Trump getting rid of the Obama-era policy called White House Council on Women and Girls. I worked with a lot of women on it, but I also worked with transgender activists who felt their voices should be heard also. So we added the protection of transgender and non-binary [people] to our council.I got pushback from Democrats and Republicans, but I held my ground and it was passed into law.

WCT: It's interesting that you got bipartisan pushback.

KC: Yeah—they were concerned because Bruce Rauner was governor at that point. Some Democrats felt that this Republican governor wouldn't sign it into law.

WCT: Could you talk about your involvement with the LGBTQ community?

KC: So I'd been endorsed by Channyn Lynn Parker, a transgender advocate. Our campaign team is all women; we didn't plan for it to be that way—it just turned out that way. Most of them identify as queer or lesbian, and issues that are very pervasive in the LGBTQ community have come up in my campaign a lot—and I think that's made me a better candidate. It means so much to me to be an ally to the community; I'm going to fight for you when I get to Congress.

WCT: What would you say is the most important issue for the LGBTQ community?

KC: I would say it's moving forward and stopping the civil-rights rollbacks. There are things happening like discrimination against LGBTQ people in housing. As a healthcare advocate, I want culturally competent healthcare for the LGBTQ community; it's often taken off the table.

Oh, and one thing I really want to fight for is PrEP medication and pharmaceutical needs for those with HIV. Finally, we need to tackle these attacks on the transgender community and call them what they are: a crisis. Trans women, including in the 7th Congressional District, are coming up missing.

WCT: What do you think is your biggest advantage in this race, and your biggest disadvantage?

KC: Oh, that's a great question—no one's asked me that. My biggest advantage is having a real perspective on the economic realities of working-class people, living paycheck to paycheck. My biggest disadvantage is the electability argument: Can people win who don't look like how people feel leaders should look? But we've gotten huge endorsements, and we've resonated with the people in the district.

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