Bookstore proprietor and Naperville City Council member Becky Anderson Wilkins says that it was mainly concerns about healthcare that motivated her to run in the 6th Congressional District's Democratic primary March 20, when she'll go up against several other area residents looking to unseat incumbent 6th Congressional District U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam. She is running against Sean Casten, Carole Cheney, Amanda Howland, Ryan Huffman, Kelly Mazeski and Jennifer Zordani.
Windy City Times: What motivated your run? What experience are you going to draw from?
Becky Anderson Wilkins: I come from a sixth-generation family bookselling business. The values that I havewhen it comes to books, community, and reaching out about ideas and talking face-to-face with people about so many things, the things I think I stand forare what I think we're missing. I'm currently on the Naperville City Council right now, and that's why I ran in that race. I saw no transparency or openness, and a city that has become so much more diverse. We needed representation that was going to speak to everybody in an open and fair-minded way. I had decided that I wanted to run for Congress, but that November '16 election was the last piece of straw that broke the camel's back. I just can't stand to see [Roskam] do any more damage, not listen or represent, and vote for all the wrong things.
I'm a breast cancer survivor so health care is huge for me. We have to consider it a right and not a privilege, and I think that's the way that Peter Roskam looks at itthat you have to earn it. You don't have much else if you don't have your health, and we need to protect families and everyone when it comes to health. That's one issue, but there are many more. One is his stand on immigration. Having an employee who's a DACA Dreamer, I just have to stand for that stuff.
WCT: You're up against a huge candidate field, currently six other people seeking that Democratic nomination. What's your biggest advantage and, conversely, your biggest challenge in the race?
BAW: I would say that the advantage is that I'm the only currently-elected governing elected official. I've been doing this for three years and I've fought for a lot of things that make a difference in peoples' lives in the long run. Even though we're a nonpartisan body [in the Naperville City Council] I know who's a Democrat and who's a Republican, and we work together. It's those skillsknowing what we need to accomplish, working for the people of our citythat are a huge advantage. Being a small business owner, especially in a business where I have to make bridges, and I want to make bridges to our community. I want to hear ideas and make a place where people are comfortable, no matter who they are.
As for challenges, I guess it would be the funding part. I'm not funding my own campaign. I can't pull money out of my business, because I have partners; I have a family business so I can't do that. Fundraising is going very well. We have individual donors. For me, the big money has to stay out of politics and, in my campaign that's why I made that pledge, not to take a penny from any lobbyists. That's an important message to send to people in the stateI will be listening to them and not those who are trying to influence.
WCT: What are some other issues that you think are important to your constituents? You've already spoken about health care as a priority.
BAW: Health care—I've talked to a lot of people about it. If it weren't for the pre-existing conditions [clause] in the [Affordable Care Act], they may not have survived their illness. To make sure that people can get on the exchange is part of thatthere's a lot to fix, obviously. But since the tax bill was passed, especially in the 6th, people see the income inequality becoming greater, the gap becoming greater. … With this tax bill, [Roskam] wasn't listening to anybody. In the long run, it's going to hurt a lot of things, including health care, education, property values, so many things. People don't understand the horrible ripple-effects of that horrible tax bill.
I also think people really want the Dreamers Act passed. I have a lot of friends in the 6th who hire Dreamers who are huge contributors to what they do in their companies and what they do in business. These kids are such great contributors to the social capital of our communities.
WCT: What kind of engagement have you had with the LGBT community?
BAW: Most of it has to do with authors. We try to bring as many in as we can. A good example is that we have a city-wide reading program for school children. Two years ago we had a graphic novel; it was going to be all these fourth and fifth graders in these two huge districts. I wanted to make sure that every year we have a diverse group of authors come in to talk these kids, and we did. We had Dana Simpson, who is transgender and a fantastic graphic novelist. … I had some schools object to this. But we stood our ground. She was the most popular author, and the kids absolutely adored her. It's like thatit's what I stand for every day: diversity, the LGBTQ community and people in our [overall] community.
WCT: What are the most pertinent issues for residents of the 6th District?
BAW: Bullying in schoolsknowing that we are addressing those stressors for kids who may be LGBTQ and working with school districts to know that diversity is championed, and knowing that this kind of education is just as much for anyone from a diverse or multicultural background. We need to have that kind of education and our school districts have made huge strides over the last 10 years. Part of that is helping with homelessness in our community. Some kids end up being homeless. I've worked with several organizations working on that … We do lots of fundraisers with authors who have addressed these topics, or who've lived these experiences. We make sure that they come in, and we do fundraisers that benefit these issues and bring them to the attention of people within our community.