New state rep coming to South Loop, Lakeshore East
South Side community organizer, Bronzeville resident Christian Mitchell running for 26th District House seat
11/28/2011 8:15 PM
South Loop, downtown and Lakeshore East residents living within a few blocks of Lake Michigan are getting yet another new state representative.
On Monday morning, candidates from all over the state filed their paperwork to run for the Illinois House and other offices in next March’s primary, and current 26th District State Rep. Kimberly du Buclet (who replaced Will Burns in May) wasn’t among them.
Instead, it seems the powers that be are preening the third person to take the seat since the beginning of this year: Christian Mitchell, a 25-year-old community organizer who lives in Bronzeville.
Mitchell, a graduate of the University of Chicago, has been working as a faith-based community organizer in neighborhoods from Bronzeville to Country Club Hills. He’s a political veteran, having already written two pieces of successfully passed legislation while he was working with his community organizing group, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation: the 2009 Urban Weatherization Initiative and the 2011 Universal Fare Card bill.
In an interview Monday evening, Mitchell said both fit into his goal of empowering underprivileged communities. After working on failed efforts to pass gun control legislation, he started to look at what else could be done.
“What were some of the real structural problems that are creating violence? Unemployment was one,” Mitchell said. “So we started to look for ways to get people working, and we ultimately settled on weatherization, with a focus on local training and hiring.”
His second bill, universal fare card legislation, helped the underprivileged too, he said. A universal fare card would allow riders to use one pass for CTA, Metra and Pace, making it easier for folks living on the far South Side of Chicago with long commutes to switch between modes of transportation.
Both bills were introduced into the house by Burns, whom Mitchell calls his mentor. Mitchell was Burns’ campaign manager in his run for 4th Ward alderman this spring, and went to work on former 4th Ward Alderman and current Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s staff. He also worked for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s reelection campaign in 2010.
Both Burns and Preckwinkle gave Mitchell's campaign $25,000 from their campaign coffers in late September.
Mitchell also said du Buclet, who was handpicked by Democrats in May to replace Burns when he was elected alderman, has decided not to run and is supporting him in the race. Buclet didn’t return a call seeking comment Monday evening.
Though he said he didn’t push to be appointed to the seat earlier this year when du Buclet got it, Mitchell said he’s had his eye on the district since at least 2008.
“It’s just such a rich swath of Chicago history. These are great people from all swaths of life, plumbers and electricians and professors and business people,” Mitchell said. “It’s just a great, great place to live and a great place to work and I think it’s a district that can be a great model for the rest of the state and in some ways the rest of the country.
Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said she’s backing Mitchell in the race and has been walking him around her ward introducing him to her constituents.
“I think he’s a young guy, I think he’s very smart, and I believe he’ll be a hard worker,” Dowell said. “I’ve talked to him about some of the things that are important to my constituents — education policies, funding support for infrastructure improvements, pension reform — those are things that he cares about."