Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton has been fighting to keep the State of Illinois on the path to being the best place to work, live and raise a family. Running for re-election to a second term in 2022, Lt. Gov. Stratton, alongside Governor JB Pritzker, has for the past three years created jobs, increased the minimum wage, and access to quality health care, and with strong leadership, guided the State of Illinois through the pandemic. Together, they are committed to fighting every day for the people of Illinois.
Chicago Defender: You filed for re-election. What are your goals if re-elected?
Lt. Gov. Stratton: Our goal for Gov. Pritzker and myself is to continue moving Illinois forward. We have been able to make a lot of progress, even despite a once-in-a-generation pandemic. We have been able to raise the minimum wage, make sure that we expand access to health care and quality childcare, and lift up communities across our state, from Rockford all the way to Marion. We want to keep going and keep lifting up working families all across our state.
Chicago Defender: What are the needs of the State of Illinois?
Lt. Gov. Stratton: There are multi-faceted needs. We think about how we need to continue the work. We are still in the midst of a pandemic. We are in a much better place thanks to the leadership of Gov. Pritzker. We still need to make sure we continue to support our working families. For example, we provided tax relief to families in the form of freezing the grocery and gas tax because people needed relief at the grocery store and gas station. We have provided property tax relief. We are trying to make sure that we meet families where they are right now so that they can breathe a little easier during these challenging times.
At the same time, we continue to pursue justice, equity, and opportunity for our communities across the state. Many of whom have always felt that they have been ignored or forgotten. Gov. Pritzker and I have been very focused on making sure that we listen to those communities about what they need. Communities should be able to raise their children to be safe. Parents should not be burying their children. We are making record numbers of investments into violence prevention and ensuring that there are safe communities all across our state.
We also have to lift up our small businesses. I think about how important small businesses are in the State of Illinois. We put over $250 million dollars into our Back to Business grant program during the pandemic with a specific focus on businesses owned by people of color, women, and LBGTQ+. The reason why that is so important is that when someone can open a small business in their community, that economy is circulating right within that community. If the small business owner does well, they can open another business probably in that same community or nearby. That’s where it can change the trajectory of not just families but entire communities. We are going to continue doing that work.
I can’t end without saying the importance of education. We simply have to make education more affordable for all families in the State of Illinois. We made a lot of progress expanding MAP grants and making community colleges, four-year universities, and early childhood education more affordable. Young people should be able to go to college without being in debt, or they should be able to head on a path to a trade and a good-paying union job if that is what their desire is. Gov. Pritzker and I will keep doing work around education because education can change lives.
Chicago Defender: What are your thoughts on the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade?
Lt. Gov. Stratton: I have a lot of thoughts. First and foremost, I am angered by the fact that right-wing extremists think that it’s okay to say that women should not be able to decide what we do with our own bodies. This is devasting for so many women across our country. Here in Illinois, Gov. Pritzker, as well as our partners in the general assembly, all anticipated this day. We passed HB 40, which enshrined reproductive rights into state law. No matter what the Supreme Court does, we are going to protect a woman’s right to choose right here in Illinois. We are going to continue to fight.
As a mother of four daughters, three daughters that are adults, I think about the fact that we should be able to leave them a world that has more rights and is better than what we had. That’s what our mothers tried to do. We should leave it better for the next generation. The fact that they are taking away their rights to decide what is best for their bodies and their future is unacceptable. We are not going to be silent. We are going to continue to fight and make sure that Illinois remains a beacon for women’s rights and reproductive rights for women across this nation.
Chicago Defender: Black women have been shattering glass ceilings. You being the first black female Lt. Governor, the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, and Mellody Hobson becoming part-owner of the Denver Broncos, what does that mean to you as a black woman?
Lt. Gov. Stratton: I know my children are proud of me. They just see me as their mom. Mostly, what I feel is a great sense of pride. I ran for Lt. Governor because I knew that JB Pritzker, at the time, was going to be the best person to lead the state. What I appreciate about him, I told him there were a lot of issues that I care about to bring more justice to our communities and opportunities to black communities that have often been ignored. I’m passionate about these issues. I don’t want to come into this office if I can’t bring my full and authentic self as a black woman. Gov. Pritzker said he wouldn’t have it any other way. I appreciate the partnership I have with Gov. Pritzker.
It’s an honor to serve in this role, serve the 13 million people of the State of Illinois, and bring my voice as a black woman into spaces where it never existed before in this way. Most importantly, I enjoy listening to our young people across the state. Many of the young people with two afro puffs, cornrows, and braids say to me that they can see themselves in what their future looks like because of my role as Lt. Governor. I never came into this role to be the first. This is about being one of many.
I look forward to working alongside Gov. Pritzker to open up doors of opportunity for young people for generations to come.
Tammy Gibson is an author, re-enactor, and black history traveler. Find her on social media @sankofatravelher.