Political discourse motivates Butler to run for office


In thinking about the discourse that’s been prevalent in politics in recent years, Chris Butler wasn’t pleased.

There’s been a trend of “demonization,” he said, between opposing political parties. And, in the end, common citizens don’t benefit.

So, Butler, of Beverly, decided to run for Congress.

The senior pastor of the Chicago Embassy Church Network, Butler will challenge U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush next year in the Democratic primary race for the First Congressional District of Illinois.

As he vies to become a U.S. representative, Butler wants the heated, unproductive disagreements to stop.

“That kind of behavior basically yields a … government of status quo, which, if you’re already comfortable and powerful, that works,” Butler said. “But, for the rest of us, who, especially in the middle of the crisis that we have, really need to see government step up and do some fairly big things, status quo doesn’t work. … We can’t build on separate coalitions if we refuse to talk to each other, if we demonize each other over every little issue.”

Rush has represented the First District, which includes Morgan Park, parts of Beverly, other parts of the South Side of Chicago and several southwest suburbs, for nearly three decades.

In leading the Chicago Embassy Church Network, which operates in Hyde Park and South Holland, Butler is the pastor of the same church in which he grew up, and he said that he has been on “the front line of social movement, progress and change.”

The First District is diverse, including urban and rural areas. Butler said he feels comfortable addressing the needs of all constituents. He has also worked for the Illinois Farm Bureau.

“I know the language and the work of both those places,” Butler said. “I think I can be a voice that brings us together.”

In working on education policy, Butler was the deputy campaign manager for A+ Illinois and advocacy director for New Schools for Chicago.

He also co-founded the Chicago Peace Campaign, which unites several churches to fight community violence, and served on Barack Obama’s campaign for U.S. Senate in the early 2000s. He said that successful campaign was proof that “we can build a grassroots movement” that can beat the odds.

Butler’s focal points, he said, revolve around growing the economy, improving education and restoring faith in democracy.

He would like to see the U.S. economy experience a “re-balance” so that all the money doesn’t end up at “the very , very top of big corporations.”

“Too many folks are either not able to find a good job or actually go and work every day and don’t make the kind of money that they need to build the life that they want for themselves and their family,” Butler said. “So, we have to find a way to kind of re-balance the economy, especially as we’re coming out of COVID and folks are anticipating a boom.”

Butler said he wants to strengthen unions and guarantee a basic income for citizens.

Regarding education, he said he wants to close the gap between the academic experience of the wealthy and the poor. He feels that the U.S. “as a whole is lagging behind.” He wants to see schools re-opening but more improvements made beyond that so the U.S. leads the world in education.

“The president said it [recently],” Butler said. “If we allow the world to teach us, then the world will certainly outcompete us.”

Butler and his wife, Aziza, have four children, Azaria, Corban, Azadi and Christopher Anthony.

Butler said he wants to “rebuild faith and trust” in the American public—including improving civic education in the classroom and making it easier to vote.

It’s time, he said, for Americans to unite, work together and work through disagreements.

“As somebody who’s come the way that I’ve come, I’m very, very serious about refusing to demonize folks,” Butler said. “That is what we need in our politics today.”

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May 4, 2021 at 01:27PM

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