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ELECTIONS 6th Congressional Dist. candidate Jennifer Zordani profile
by Matt Simonette

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Attorney Jennifer Zordani is running in the crowded March 20 Democratic primary for the 6th Congressional District. The winner in that race takes on Republican incumbent Rep. Peter Roskam in the general election this fall. Zordani is up against Becky Anderson Wilkins, Sean Casten, Carole Cheney, Amanda Howland, Ryan Huffman and Kelly Mazeski.

Windy City Times: What prompted you to run?

Jennifer Zordani: I'm running in direct response to Peter Roskam's failure to lead. His views and my views on so many issues are so different, But I am going to accept that we have a two-party country and that there are approaches that we might differ on as Democrats and Republicans. But what I think is non-negotiable are issues close to the LGBTQ community—that we should not ever accept bigotry and bias in our public or private lives, and we know the Roskam has been extremely slow to show up or speak up for equality. Overall, I don't find him to be a particularly effective legislator. I think he is incredibly out of touch with the district—he's shown that now with the tax reform. That was a slap to the people of the 6th District as well as the people of Illinois.

When the Trump audio came out, Roskam was slow to say anything, and only did so when people pressed him to say something. He typically uses this language—"as a father and a husband, I support women, I support my daughters"—that's code for, "As a patriarch, I support women.' It's a very bland, not truly equality-based statement. When he wouldn't speak out against Trump, I thought, 'What the heck?' This is one of the worst shows of character by someone running for president, and Roskam stays silent. Then of course we had the election, and I just thought I could do a better job than Roskam, so that's why I'm running.

WCT: Some of your opponents have been vocal about the health care issue, with their own personal narratives about their health care experiences. What did you think of Roskam's work as the health care vote played out?

JZ: I think that he has bought into the agenda that the Republicans have to dismantle everything that President Obama has done. I I don't think he has any solutions. He's been proud of that "repeal and replace," and we saw that that "replace" bill would just harm people by increasing deductibles and premiums. So I think I'm similar to my colleagues in my complete disdain for his approach,

WCT: How has the election gone for you? What is your biggest advantage and your biggest challenge in your campaign?

JZ: We're all terrific candidates. We all have the same goal. I'd like to believe that I am the hardest-working, and that I'm strongest in approaching issues on substance. I think the fact that I grew up in this district, have lived in the area and am running for the people is my biggest advantage. I'm not part of the political establishment. I don't run race after race. I'm really stepping into this to use the skills that I have. My legal skills and my years as a lawyer make the candidate best suited for the job.

Challenges? It's a big race. It's a big field. I welcome the challenge. I think the full field is good for the district. We were at a forum last night and five of the seven showed up. The voters get to hear from us and hear what we've been talking about. They pose questions and we've got to answer them. It's very different from Roskam does.

WCT: You mention that you're not one of the "political elite," and you have an extensive legal background with a concentration in finance. How does that translate to legislating in Washington, D.C.?

JZ: I worked for 17 years at a law firm where my mentor—the partner I worked with most closely—had served on the Senate banking committee when the securities laws were rewritten in 1975. I learned to practice, and evaluate, the law from one of the best in the field. I think that is extremely beneficial to me. I have a very good insight into how businesses approach new regulation, and I'm focused on the people of the district, and I think that the first job of the laws are to work for the people of the district. That's not to discount the need for businesses to thrive and employ people, but government does level the playing field for people with limited bargaining power. I've seen that firsthand, and I feel very fortunate to worked with a lot of people and companies who are very comfortable with their ability to compete without having to abuse the law.

WCT: Have you had significant work or engagement with the LGBT community?

JZ: I can't tell you that I've had significant work with the community. Engagement? Yes. Who doesn't have friends, colleagues and family who are part of the LGBT community? I can tell you two stories that are striking to me. Years ago, when I worked with the Board of Trade, I worked with a guy, who we all thought was gay, but we never said anything. Years later, we reconnected as friends and he was openly gay by then, 20 years later. We were talking about it, and he said, 'Oh, I never ever would have said at work that I was gay. That environment was so hostile.' I understood that, but it never mattered to me, or my friends there.

More recently, I talked to a man who lives in the district. He and his husband—one in his sixties, the other in his seventies—and they had only recently come out as gay to their friends and family. I thought, 'Oh my gosh, there is still such a huge level of professional bias. I have to say, it was a little eye-opening for me, because I thought that personally and professionally, even when you know there are people who are biased, you should be comfortable coming out as gay. This man showed me that, no, there are still situations and workplaces wherein people, to protect their livelihood, keep their personal lives and the people that they love quiet. That was eye-opening for me. I thought I was informed, with my friends and family who are part of that community. There's always something we can learn.

WCT: Along those same lines, what are some pertinent issues for the LGBT community in the district?

JZ: If we go back to Congressman Roskam, when he was was being interviewed by Crain's he was asked about Roy Moore, and he said, 'I don't want to talk about Roy Moore, I want to talk about taxes.' As usual, when that got out, people demanded that he make a statement. He issued a statement, but what he was issuing a statement about was the allegations of predatory pedophilia by Roy Moore.

To me, the issue in our district right now is that the Republican party refuses to disavow bigots. Roy Moore said gay people should go to jail—that it's criminal activity. He said Muslims shouldn't serve in office. Peter Roskam knew exactly who Roy Moore was and could not disavow a bigot. That's an issue. We have Jeanne Ives running for governor. She's a fear-monger. She's absolutely not a proponent for equality.

We saw in Palatine, and still see, the ongoing fight for transgender youth. I think that's an important issue, I commend the people in Palatine who united to protect the transgender women and rallied around them. Those kind of issues will continue to percolate, and I think it is often the older generations that sort of live by their own expectations, and it's the younger people who are more open to change than their parents give them credit for. We live in Clarendon Hills and my niece goes to Hinsdale, and I have heard about unflattering statements towards the gay community there. There are a lot of youth who don't want to come out because they are concerned.

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