The current Comptroller of Illinois, Susana Mendoza, has been in politics officially since she was elected to the Illinois General Assembly as a State Representative for the 1st District in 2000. Mendoza became City Clerk of Chicago in 2011 and then Comptroller for the state in 2016.
Now, the 46-year-old Chicago native wants to serve as mayor of the city. She says she will be a mayor who not only understands policy and fiscal matters but one who loves people too.
The Defender recently caught up with the candidate in the midst of her busy campaign schedule as election day (February 26) nears.
Chicago Defender: Tell us why you are running for mayor.
Susana Mendoza: Number 1, because I truly believe the future of our city is at stake. I’m very concerned—not just about the next four years—but for the next generation, the future of Chicago. I believe in Chicago.
I was born in a neighborhood (Little Village) that my family had to leave due to violence. My parents were poor, they cobbled together every penny they could and moved us out over night to a safer environment. I never forgot what it was like to be run out of your neighborhood…I vowed to come back and make a difference.
(After college, Mendoza returned to Little Village and lived there for 18 years until she got married and moved.)
CD: In your campaign, you mention you have worked on the three most important areas to voters—crime, taxes, and education–throughout all of your career. What do you plan to do about these issues?
SM: For education, we need to rework the formula. We need new initiatives and to give kids more resources. I think we should keep them in school longer than 3:15 (no parent gets off at 3:15). How do you get your kids? No one talks about this. You have two choices: forgo a normal job or allow your kid to walk through unsafe environments…and have them watch themselves and maybe make bad choices. If we extend the school day, provide supervision, mentoring after school…we can partner with groups to bring resources into schools for students as well as parents. We can take care of food insecurity issues (with dinner or snacks), parents can access life skill coaching/job coaching…and we can close the achievement gaps. There’s a program like this in Harlem. And since I don’t do anything half-way, we would make it better. No way I am giving up on kids nor their families. I want to help parents, help the kids, and help outcomes. (You can read her 50 NEW Neighborhood Education Works plan on her website susanamendoza.com)
I’d be the first mayor in the entire history with my own child in CPS. (Her 6-year-old son is in a public school in Chicago). I would fight for every child in Chicago as if they are my own son.
CD: Well, this brings us to taxes. How will you pay for the new education plan?
SM: For education most will come from the $70 million equity fund and some will come from the philanthropic community—which is very generous in Chicago.
…As comptroller I said either tax dollars are working for the people or against the people; we have to show positive outcomes. It is more expensive to do business as we have been. We can spend money on programs that will improve outcomes or we can continue to spend $40,000 a year to incarcerate people.
CD: Your plan sounds good. Now I have two questions about controversies surrounding your campaign. There are only two negatives I’ve heard: your connection with Alderman Edward Burke (who is the subject of a Federal complaint for alleged extortion) and how you announced your run for mayor right after running and winning reelection as state comptroller. What do you say about these controversial charges?
SM: It is my job to work with people; it would be abnormal for me to not work with (Burke) as the legislature for the 1st district and then again as City Clerk and Illinois Comptroller. But those accusations are a reflection of their behavior not mine. …I immediately donated all money from Burke…I have a record of standing up for ethics. I have the strongest anti-corrpution plan than any other candidate. I want to be mayor to clean up the corruption.
As for why I ran for re-election as comptroller, the state was at stake. I needed to resist against Bruce Rauner. I managed the state through the worst fiscal crisis in our history. I was willing to take on Rauner…and as long as Bruce Rauner was governor, I would be comptroller. I wasn’t going to allow him to win and appoint his own comptroller. I needed to make sure Pritzker was governor. I needed to make sure Rauner was a thing of the past.
Now, Chicago’s future is at stake. And I want to be the mayor who understands policy and fiscal issues and who loves people. I want people to know no matter the color of their skin, I want to make the person who feels invisible to know the mayor sees them. I want them to know that the city they love will love them back.
I would be honored and humbled to take Chicago into the future. I encourage people to get involved, volunteer and vote for me.