An Interview With Rep. LaShawn K. Ford: Will He Run For Mayor?

La Shawn  K. Ford, Illinois State Representative of the 8th District, is considering a Chicago mayoral run. Rep. Ford’s resume includes advocating for Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Presidential primaries, introducing legislation that was signed into law creating the African American Employment Plan Act, introducing a bill for a national African-American reparations commission, and voting to “ban the box” – a bill that would ban criminal history questions for private sector jobs.


He is another name thrown into a pool of about 20 potential candidates for the coveted mayoral seat. As of this moment, his exploratory committee is circulating petitions in neighborhoods across the city.


The Chicago Defender recently had a chance to sit down with the State Representative for an hour to talk about his potential run.


Let’s get straight to it. Why did you start an exploratory committee for a mayoral run?


Rep Ford: I’ve been inundated with calls saying that I need to run and that I’m the most qualified to run. People volunteered to start petitioning for me. It came from the people, my constituents. Everybody with big names we see in this [pool of candidates] is more of the same. We just can’t afford that at this point.


But why make the decision after the mayor announced that he won’t seek re-election? Lori Lightfoot, another mayoral candidate, is quoted by various news outlets saying, “Anyone who decides to jump in and take advantage of today’s political news–I think a fair question to ask them is, where have they been?”


Rep. Ford: I don’t see anybody that’s going to be the change necessary to make sure that we don’t forget the forgotten.


Some people say “Well, why didn’t you run when Rahm was in it?” They don’t know the politics I have to play. If I’m a state representative now – which I am – and running against the mayor of the City of Chicago, then that’s just going to create conflict and I’m not going to be able to better serve my constituents. If I were to call the City of Chicago for anything, they would set roadblocks between me and my constituents.


To show my disdain for the mayor, I never supported him. I’m the one who pushed the recall bill after the Laquan McDonald’s assassination. I’ve tried to get rid of Rahm in a legislative way. The recall bill caused some problems between his administration and me.


Splitting of the vote is always raised during election season. Currently, we have 8 Black candidates running for the seat. Do you believe that this works against the Black community and is ultimately divisive?


Rep. Ford: You can never downplay unity, but you can never downplay voters’ ability to pick the best candidate. Democracy says as many people should run as feel they can. It’s up to the voters to pick the best person.


What separates you from other candidates?


Rep. Ford: I’m going after the disenfranchised. This campaign is also petitioning to require the next mayor to have an economic development plan for the South and West sides of Chicago. We call it The Marshall Plan. My focus is on the communities where the city has invested too much in law enforcement and not enough in human capital.


Usually, progressive thought is determined by White liberal women. We need a progressive Black agenda and that’s what I offer. We can get White people behind that. When we stop investing so much money in law enforcement, we don’t have to keep raising property taxes. We can put everything into human capital.


There is no one in this race that can prove that they won’t govern like the previous administration. My record proves that I’ve pushed progressive ideas: I’m the one who expanded the ceiling for ex-offenders. I’m the on who “banned the box.” I’m the one who did the microloan for ex-offenders.


Some have criticized City Council as “rubberstamped aldermen” for their voting record with the mayor. If you’re elected, do you intend to change City Hall’s culture, specifically aldermen?


Rep. Ford: The best way for the next mayor to be successful is to empower each alderman in their wards. If they’re the mayor of their community, and we establish a budget that includes all wards, it makes no difference to continue the cycle of previous administrations.


We have to make sure aldermen have a say in the crafting of the budget. People don’t expect the mayor to deliver programs in their ward and there is no reason that aldermen should have to beg the mayor for things. There is no reason for a mayor to make their aldermen look bad for not being able to deliver to their constituents.


This city has seen countless protests under Mayor Emanuel. Many activist groups and organizations have been demanding a variety of reforms from his administration. Do you believe this will change under a new mayor? How would you reconcile their grievances?


If you have a compassionate person who really understands the pain that protestors are going through, then….Look, this city needs some healing. Black people need to be heard. We need somebody in that office that hears and respects Black people.


If we know something is wrong, then why do we have to fight the administration to do what is right? I believe in protest, but why do we need to protest the firing of an officer who shoots an innocent person? We need a mayor who understands wrong is wrong. The mayor should stand up for the people. If I’m mayor, Black Lives Matter and all issue-driven people will have a seat at the table. They wouldn’t have to protest to get it.

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