By SAMANTHA SMYLIE
Sen. Robert Peters (D-13th) launched his election campaign on Jan. 11 by promising to continue to be an effective, progressive voice in the Illinois Senate.
While a mix of rain, ice and snow attacked those who braved the weather outside, Flood’s Hall, 1515 E. 52nd Pl., hosted an excited group of about 50 people who showed up to support Peters campaign launch. The group was a mix of constituents, volunteers, elected officials and representatives from progressive organizations. Among those endorsing Peters were the Sunrise Movement (a national movement geared towards ending climate change and creating environmental-friendly jobs), Cook County College Teachers Union and National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United.
As the afternoon began, Peters talked to the crowd about his achievements during his time as an appointed state senator. “I passed 13 bills; four bills involving the [Department of Children and Family Services] and three bills involving the criminal justice system,” he said. “I was a freshman who passed the first-ever ban on private immigrant detention centers in the entire country. The reason why we were able to pass these bills was that there were people who organized power and pressured legislatures who helped me get that done.”
Throughout the rest of his speech, he transitioned into his vision for the campaign and how he sees it as an opportunity to prove that progressive ideas can win on the city’s South Side. “We have an opportunity to say when it comes to a progressive political moment that it can work and that it can win on the South Side of Chicago,” Peters said. “That a district that goes from the Gold Coast to the Indiana Border along the Lakefront is going to be a shiny beacon for progressivism here on the South Side.
“What I think about in terms of this seat is to open the doors to everyone who is organizing power on the South Side. It means that organizations have a spot to use my office as a tool to build more power and that I am the conduit of that power in Springfield. When it comes to getting a Green New Deal and the [Clean Energy Jobs Acts], we’ll get it done. When it comes to ending cash bail, we’ll get it done. When it comes to getting an elected representative school board, we’ll get it done.”
Tyler Okeke, a first-year student at the University of Chicago representing UChicago Student Action, talked about why his group endorses Peters, he said, “This is important to us because we all have connections to a lot of the issues that Robert has been a champion for in our movement but also because we come from a university that has not been a good ally of this community.”
Okeke continued: “It has been a part of contributing to the anti-Black policing and to the terrible responses to crime and poverty in this district. So, our personal responsibilities are to make sure that though we pay tuition to that university that we’re not complacent in our organizing and in our attitude to what our university does.”
Charletta Tibbs, representing the Jane Addams Seniors for Action, told the crowd about her first time interviewing Peters and how impressed she was with him.
“I was truly impressed with how he addressed us with a sincere and caring heart for not only senior citizens but for all people in need of great assistance dealing with serious issues,” said Tibbs. “For someone who had to struggle through life with a disability, he overcame the challenge by focusing and staying on course towards his accomplishments.
“Getting 13 bills passed in one year is a huge victory, this shows us that Sen. Robert Peters is a fighter that doesn’t give up. He agrees with all of our issues, especially on the rent control ban. I believe that Sen. Robert Peters will represent and continue to strive at his highest level of achieving our needs. I believe he has the political experience and energy that will lead us to our final goal.”
Kennedy Bartley, Legislator Coordinator at United Working Families (UWF), — a political organization that has gotten 16 members elected to Chicago’s City Council, the Cook County Board of Commissioners and the Illinois General Assembly since 2018 — highlighted Peters record as a reason for why UWF endorsed him.
“We recognize Robert as being a bold leader for criminal justice reform and child welfare with his DCFS and Foster care programs. We’re here to support Robert in all the ways we can to ensure that he continues to be effective, efficient and equitable in office. So, we are here to tell the 13th District and all of Chicago that Robert has been a voice for working-class families and we’re guaranteeing that he’ll continue to be one.”
At the end of the program, Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) spoke about why she endorses Peters. She started her speech about the time they met at Bridgeport Coffee, 5030 S. Cornell Ave., a year ago when she was running for her current seat in the city council.
“I met Robert last year at one of his favorite coffee places, Bridgeport Coffee, and he basically asked me, ‘What is your plan?’ and we talked and he said, ‘You got my endorsement.’ and I was like, ‘You ain’t really grilled me. You didn’t really ask me questions.’ and he was like ‘You just have a heart for the people and that’s all I really want to see,’” said Taylor.
During her speech, she acknowledged that Peters was appointed to his seat which might make some voters disinterested in him and view him as a part of the greater Chicago political machine. However, she said, “Appointed or elected, has he not (gone) down to the state and advocated for the rights of working-class people? He has. Robert has always been in this to do what’s right and he works with the community.”
“Sometimes when we are in these spaces, we ain’t gotta do it. We make good money. We got good jobs. We come from a good place. Robert can say, ‘To hell with it. I ain’t gotta do. I can get down here and be like everybody else; collect my check and go not to vote or say I abstain.’ Robert doesn’t do that, he stands out on issues that are very hard and that are very near and dear to our community. Robert deserves to be in this seat,” said Taylor.