Legislators Speak – Running for Political Office

At KCDW our mission is to empower women. But today our message focuses on inspiring a few to run for elected office. We’ll hear from three elected leaders, their path to victory and how each is changing their world, and in the process making our communities better.

Throughout history and across this nation women striving to change the world in any arena comes at a steep sacrifice. Many, are in multifaceted roles as wives, mothers of young children, wage earners and at times caregivers of an elderly parent or spouse. We marvel at their resilience, their fierce demonstrations reflected in their strengths. One could fantasize an Indian deity equipped with multiple arms. Women are the secret mankind underestimates and often grapples to understand

Our marketing committee sought to learn more about what goes into the decision making process when considering political office. We reached out to four well-respected elected officials in our Kane County community. They are women legislators, those we have supported and elected to office. We hoped to interview four attendees with five questions during our Springfield trip to the Governors Brunch. Three of the four returned written responses. We include their full responses in PDF within this article. But we begin by sharing some of their answers. Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, Illinois State Senator Cristina Castro, and Illinois State Senator Karina Villa share their thoughts with Kane County Democratic Women

Five questions. 1) what event led to their political awakening; 2) the biggest hurdle they faced; 3) advice for women planning a run for office; 4) lessons learned along the way; and 5) what they believe is the biggest challenges facing the Democratic Party in 2022. 

Illinois State Senator Cristina Castro on her decision to run for office:

“I have been involved in my community since high school and I’ve always enjoyed helping others and giving back. When I was in college I had to scale back my involvement to focus on my education but vowed once I started my professional career that I would get involved again, which I did. I volunteered to help organize various community events and even served on several City of Elgin Commissions. In 2007, there was an individual who was appointed to the Kane County Board, a Democrat, who wasn’t doing a good job representing the district or its constituents on the Board. I knew I could do a better job so with no experience in politics, I ran for the Kane County Board. It was during that journey, I met a lot of good folks who showed me the ropes and supported me, people such as Mark Guethle, Michael Noland, Ben Bernal, Hal Cattron to name a few. I eventually would win that primary in 2008 and would go on to win the general election later that year. I would go on to serve two terms on the Kane County Board before running in 2016 for the state legislature. The support I have received from everyone from my first election to now has been amazing which is something I will never forget.”

Illinois State Senator Cristina Castro

What is so inspirational about Senator Castro’s journey is her focus, self belief, and her motivation to meeting others who supported that effort leading to where she is today. Often true passion can flame out when life gets hard. Exceptional women often juggle many priorities at once, and have the tenacity to plow along. Like the tortoise and the hair, women are resilient, going the distance.

Reflecting on policymaking in the U.S. Congress, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood answers the question on what is the biggest hurdle faced. 

“Our Congress does not look like our America, and that matters when it comes to policy making. There is a perception that Congress works on issues that are raised by the members. This means that we must elect public servants who are more reflective of the people they represent so we can solve the issues that are impacting Americans.” 

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood

The following excerpt from an online article explains why Congresswoman Underwood’s answer to this question is so important to our community where the impact of passing needed legislation can be felt among working families, the elderly and disabled. 

According to a recent article in Politico, Democrats have ultra-thin margins in Congress that threaten to torpedo President Biden’s economics bill. This is a transformative piece of domestic legislation that would improve the quality of care for everyone. Jonathan Cohn from Politico writes it includes three components: provides up to three months of paid leave to take care of family members, makes childcare and prekindergarten available to any family who wants it, with a proposal for a “home- and community-based services” component that allows disabled and elderly Americans to live on their own. Kane County has a population of 532,403, 14.3 percent are people over 65 years of age. There is a poverty rate of 8.2 percent and disabled rate of 5.6 percent. Six percent (33,000) children are under the age of five. Our community can benefit from this legislation.

The next question is about success and what events may have contributed. While we all measure success differently, their answers are enlightening. 

“I’ve learned a lot over the past few years – much of which isn’t necessarily political. This work is about persistence. Government isn’t always the most well-oiled machine, so you have to be willing to fight hard, time and again, for what you know is right.” 

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood

“I stay true to my word, and on the most difficult days I remember that my constituents are the reason I’m there. They are why I do this work.”

Illinois Senator Karina Villa

Just think for one moment why elections matter – because every day the lives of our families, the health and welfare of our communities lie in the dedicated hands of women like these three representatives, who place their constituents first.

There is truth to the adage that firsthand knowledge is always the best coat of armor, so if you’re considering a run for office, the following advice is especially for you.

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood on advice to women planning to run for office…

“I want women of all ages to know that it is possible. That they can and should step up when a challenge presents itself – even if it seems insurmountable. Because it’s not. I am proof of that. It is absolutely worth it to put everything on the line to fight for what we know is right. Our families, friends and neighbors deserve a representative who shows up for them every day in a transparent and accountable way, which means we need to keep working until our Congress looks like our America.”

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood

Lastly, every Democrat should be worried about the midterm 2022 elections where our party faces a fierce headwind. Illinois State Senator Cristina Castro has sound advice.

What do you consider the biggest challenges facing the Democratic Party in the next election?“

“The biggest challenge will be making sure our Democrats are motivated to come out and vote in a mid-term election. There is a lot at stake with all the statewide office holders and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth up for re-election in addition all the General Assembly (59 State Senators, 118 State Representatives), 3 Supreme Court seats and all the Kane County Commissioners are also up in 2022. We all have to work together and hard in order to get Democrats elected.”

Illinois State Senator Cristina Castro

Download the PDFs from our representatives