A Conversation with Nikki Budzinski

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Nikki Budzinski is the Democratic Nominee for the US House of Representatives for the 13th district of Illinois. This district includes Champaign, Peoria, East St. Louis, and much more of central and southern Illinois. Ms. Budzinski is from Peoria and graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She interned for Planned Parenthood, former Congressman Dick Gephardt, and former Senator Paul Simon. More recently, Budzinski worked for the United Food and Commercial Workers union, Governor JB Pritzker’s administration as a Senior Advisor, and as Chief of Staff of President Joe Biden’s Office of Budget and Management.

The following is a conversation with Nikki Budzinski:

Nikki Budzinski, congressional candidate for the 13th district.
Photo provided by: Josh Roesch, Nikki for Congress Campaign Manager

As an alum of the University of Illinois and having grown up in this area, how does it feel to be running to represent the school and this district in Congress?

It’s incredibly special and I would say it would be an honor to get to go to Congress to represent my alma mater the University of Illinois. I really became an activist when I was in college. I attended many rallies in the Illini Union myself, so it was very surreal to be a candidate speaking to students about the importance of getting them involved in this election. There are so many important issues being discussed right now whether it’s a woman’s right to choose or voting rights or college affordability or workforce development programs. I think all of that is so important and it was great to be on campus talking to students about those issues.  

You mentioned your student involvement. Were there any clubs in particular that you enjoyed being a part of or that you would recommend students today get involved in?

I became the President of the College Democrats at the U of I and I was also a student senator with the student government association. So, I ran for student senate, and then I served in the College Democrats as well. I got involved locally in elections, all politics is local, so they say. That’s when I really started to volunteer in County Clerk races and State Legislative races. It was really then that I became very interested in politics and was inspired to go into public service.

In your speech at the Illini Union, you specifically mentioned that you organized a Students for Choice group. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade fresh in our minds and the introduction of an abortion ban in the Senate by Senator Lindsey Graham, what do you think the role is of student activists and what advice would you give them going forward?

A woman’s right to choose is a woman’s right to make decisions that relate to their own reproductive healthcare. This has been something I’ve been very passionate about throughout my life. I also had the opportunity to intern for Planned Parenthood when I was at the U of I. Just like many years ago, today this is a fight that women are going to have to be on the frontline of.  We sadly see, with the overturning of Roe V. Wade and the Republicans in the United States Senate trying to move forward with a national abortion ban, that this couldn’t be a more important time for students, for women, and for people who care about a woman’s freedom to make healthcare decisions related to her own body to be involved in this election. I’m running against a woman that is very proudly on her website against a woman’s right to choose. She is supported by very right-wing organizations like the Susan B. Anthony organization that doesn’t even believe a woman in a case of rape or incest should have the ability to make her own healthcare decisions. So, there is a real contrast between myself and my Republican opponent on this issue. As you mentioned, this is an issue I have cared very much about throughout my life and it’s something that when I get to Congress, I think what we can be doing is voting to codify Roe V. Wade and make it so at the federal level that Roe V. Wade is the law of the land and protect a Woman’s right to choose.

You mentioned in your speech at the U of I student union that you grew up in a union home. You also worked for the United Food and Commercial Workers union, what have you taken from your experience with the labor movement that would inform your service as our Congressperson?

My passion is really about supporting working people and making sure they have good wages, benefits, and safe working conditions. When I worked for the United Food and Commercial Workers union, I actually visited a kill floor and I’ve seen the dangerous work that working people do in a meat processing plant. I’ve also worked for firefighters who obviously do very dangerous frontline work to protect all of us in our communities. So, I bring that experience of fighting on their behalf for, again, good wages, benefits, and safe working conditions to a passion of getting to Congress to fight for those issues when I get there. I think working people are struggling right now so very much coming out of COVID. They’re struggling with rising costs; we need to find ways to lower people’s everyday costs that they’re incurring. One of the things I talk a lot about, and support is Medicare being able to negotiate over lowering drug prices. We should lower prescription drug prices to make healthcare costs more affordable in this country. That would help working people and that’s just one example of an issue I think would help all working people throughout central and southern Illinois and it’s one of the things that motivated me to run for Congress.

Illinois has a collective bargaining amendment on the ballot, do you support this effort?

I’ll proudly be voting yes on my ballot for the Worker’s Rights Amendment. The Worker’s Rights Amendment is really about supporting working people, making sure they are getting good wages, benefits, and have safe working conditions. I think that’s critically important, what this amendment will do is help to guarantee that working people can have that and that’s what I’ve always been fighting for my entire career. That’s why I proudly support that amendment on the ballot this November.

I was told that recently you toured our campus here at Parkland and got to see some of the facilities used for our Support for Workforce Training program (SWFT). Did anything stand out to you on this tour? Also, do you think this model to provide students with technical training should be expanded across the country?

Absolutely, Parkland is a model for what we should be doing with community colleges throughout this country and throughout central and southern Illinois. In the 13th district, we are proud that Parkland is here, also Richland, but I had the opportunity to tour and see firsthand the great work Parkland Community College is doing. I very much believe that not everyone should have to go to a four-year college to get a pathway to the middle class. I got to tour the automotive facilities on the Parkland campus, I visited that and got to see firsthand the great certificate and associate degree programs that students at Parkland can get and go into a profession that provides good wages and good benefits. That doesn’t always require and shouldn’t always require a four-year degree and that’s the opportunity that Parkland Community College provides the students on campus. I was incredibly inspired by what I saw. And then for those with an interest in finishing with a four-year degree, there is the pathway program at Parkland Community College where you can feed into the University of Illinois if you want to get a bachelor’s degree and finish with a four-year degree but that really shouldn’t be the only way that working people can get access to the middle class. We need to create more pathways to associate degrees and certificate programs through our community colleges that provide real opportunities to the middle class. That is something I feel passionate about and something I will fight for in Congress.

*Election day is November 8th, and in Champaign County, the polls open 40 days prior to this date. Mail-in ballots are also available to every eligible voter in Champaign County. You can register to vote online, in person at the County Clerk’s office, or in person on election day.*

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September 20, 2022 at 11:03PM

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