Union Organizer Lakesia Collins Wins State Rep Race After Building Grassroots Support On The West Side

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NORTH LAWNDALE — The Democratic primary for a seat in the Illinois statehouse held by the same family for nearly 40 years has been won decisively by political newcomer Lakesia Collins, a healthcare worker and union organizer.

Collins will presumably become the first woman to represent the 9th District in the House of Representatives after no Republican ran on the primary ballot.

Coming second in the race for the 9th District with just under 15 percent of the vote was Aaron Turner, brother to the outgoing state representative Art Turner and son of Arthur Turner who held the seat for three decades starting in 1981. The 9th District represents North Lawndale, the Near West Side and parts of the Near North Side.

“I was nervous because I have no name recognition, and I was going up against candidates that are a family name,” Collins said, while also commending all candidates for their work to improve the West Side. She said her experience as a working-class mother of six helped constituents to see themselves in her, along with her track record of mobilizing residents to address issues on the West Side as a community organizer.

“Everybody should have contact with their rep and not just during voting times,” Collins said. “My approach is different — I’m an organizer. My job is bringing people together to fight together.”

Collins has an organizing background with SEIU Healthcare Illinois, where she pushed for nursing home reform and $15 minimum wage legislation. She credits her decisive win to working-class families who are tired of holding down multiple jobs while struggling to make ends meet and grappling with gun violence and a troubled school system, things she has dealt with, too.

Collins said addressing these issues requires a holistic approach. For example, her strategies for improving public safety in North Lawndale would target the root causes of violence, like unemployment, housing insecurity and a lack of mental health resources, rather than relying just on policing Black neighborhoods.

Other candidates to represent the 9th district in the house had backgrounds in government, like Turner who is currently the legislative liaison for the Illinois Housing Development Authority, and Trina Mangrum and Ty Cratic who each have worked for Alderman Jason Ervin (28th.) Collins’ victory is a signal that voters are embracing new faces in politics that bring with them grassroots-driven change.

“People who were feeling hopeless who don’t really trust the government are now starting to join this movement because they actually want to be a part of the change,” she said. “And that’s no disrespect to elected officials, but I want to be clear that I’m excited to be a part of this movement of having working-class people, everyday people at every level of government who have these lived experiences.”

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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March 23, 2020 at 01:15PM

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