By ALLISON MATYUS
The race for 1st Congressional District has brought out two Republican and three Democratic candidates to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1). Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) is a part of that race to change up the congressional leadership.
Brookins has seen the challenges that the 1st District faces head on as an alderman of a ward that is a part of the district that spans as far as the south suburbs. He said for the 21st Ward, one of those big challenges has been economic development.
“Fifty percent of African American men in the state of Illinois are unemployed. [Unemployment] is a huge issue that leads to a lot of the social problems and crime that we have and this is happening in the congressman’s district,” Brookins said.
According to ballotpedia.org, the unemployment rate in the 1st District sits at 16.8 percent. Brookins said that bringing in economic development and jobs to areas in the district that have been looked over could improve the overall quality of these communities.
He brought in jobs in his own ward by bringing in large department stores where young people in the community were able to work. Brookins also made it known that he is a supporter of raising the minimum wage, and wants to push the current wage even higher to $15 an hour.
Although his office sits in the heart of the 21st Ward, where he has served as alderman since 2003, his vision for the rest of the district is similar to the progress he has made there.
“The core of the ward is centered with middle-income African Americans,” he said. “Whatever ward that starts in, we all have common and shared values and goals.”
One of those values that Brookins stressed is the importance of police accountability. His history as a states attorney, public defender and criminal defense attorney has brought him face to face with police misconduct and he has been fighting for reform since he got his start in his career.
“There needs to be federal standards for investigations and federal standards in use of force…we need to have these things spelled out in law,” Brookins said. “I see this issue in a different lens because of my practice in law.”
Brookins described these injustices in part due to the leadership that has played a role in the city’s government. He said the current congressman has not been playing his part in the communities he serves.
“I think that we need somebody to show up and fight for us and for whatever the reason, in recent years, the congressman has not been doing that,” he said. “I am going to show up and fight.”
Brookins is running as a Democratic candidate against Rush, Patrick Brutus and Harold Bailey. The primary elections take place on March 15, and Brookins is looking to raise the votes.
“I’m not so naïve to believe that the entirety of the first district has the same issues but I am willing to be there and listen and go to the communities,” he said. “Whether it is Mokena or whether it is Hyde Park or Bronzeville, I would work with the local elected officials to figure out what their issues are to figure out how I can best serve the people of the entire district.”