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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Gay man talks about running for state rep
by MacKenzie Murtaugh
2019-07-15

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Every morning, Ken Meija-Beal awakes to his alarm at 3:30 a.m.

The first thing on his mind is to respond to each and every message he received overnight. After that, he heads to the gym. To him, his day is structured to communicate with people. He bases much of his productivity around his conversations and if he has invited people of color, different sexual orientations, races and socioeconomic backgrounds to the table.

When he announced his run for state representative for the 42nd District on July 15, Meija-Beal was not fazed by the lack of discourse the former representatives allowed in his community.

"I am running to be a representative who actually communicates with the community, and by the community, I mean the entire district," Meija-Beal told Windy City Times before the announcement. "There is no representation, no one is communicating with us, our voices are not being heard."

Meija-Beal represents more than a gay, Black man with a passion for representation—he said he attempts to respect and highlight every underrepresented group he can with his campaign.

"We are the middle class, poor people, people of color, the LGBT community, senior citizens," he said. "The opposite of that would be the folks with a lot of money. That's who our district is."

Before announcing his run for state representative, Meija-Beal was a community organizer for Chris Kennedy's gubernatorial campaign, and is a member of the Democratic National Committee and operates in DuPage County.

. Meija-Beal intends to apply what he learned in his past positions and utilize them to develop a relationship with his community that other politicians don't have.

"What I will do is exactly what I have been doing, which is talking to people and understanding what makes them tick," Meija-Beal said.

Meija-Beal's platform centers on three major issues he intends to change in his district. First, he promises to halt any revenue increases on alcohol, saying the increases tend to hurt small business and bar owners.

He also wants to help his community with a simpler distribution of affordable insulin and HIV medication. Mejia-Beal said that without insurance or an excess of funds, many low-income citizens and LGBTQ+ community members cannot afford the necessary medication for their illnesses.

His third promise is to end puppy mills in Illinois. The living situation that the mills supply for the animals is fundamentally abusive, according to Meija-Beal. "If the conditions are deplorable, it's disgusting," Meija-Beal said. "It's simply not okay in our state. We have so many animals that need to be adopted."

With these main issues, he hopes to be successful in placing a magnifying glass on underrepresented groups who may feel ostracized by their current and former representatives.

"I want people to know that I see them," Meija-Beal said. "We are in a culture, and not just in our state but the entire county, where so many people are fighting just to be seen. They're not being seen because of socio-economic issues. If you don't have enough money to take a trip to Springfield, how are you going to be seen here?"

He vowed to make himself as available to his community as possible by allowing them to call, text, email and message him through social media to address any issues they have. After a day at their nine-to-five, U.S. workers may not want to call their representatives. Knowing this, Meija-Beal has acknowledged the ease of sending a text message or an email, as opposed to a phone call. By making his personal information public, Mejia-Beal said he hopes to develop a more reciprocal relationship with his community than other representatives.

"That's the reason I'm running because I actually do care," he said. "I'm definitely not doing this for any other reason. I am someone who's just a normal guy who, for years, I felt like no one saw me. I took it upon myself to be seen, to get heard and to get those stories out there."

Using the adversity he has faced as an openly gay Black man prompted Meija-Beal to use his voice to uplift people in places he has experienced.

"[My experiences] affect the way I view government because a lot of people, especially in today's age, don't understand what it's like to have to wait for the government to say you can live your life. I do, so when I heard people say the government is stalling on X, Y and Z, I understand. I know what that's like."


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