Evanston residents help Lauren Underwood seek re-election in historically red District 14


Daily file photo by Jason Beeferman

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood. Underwood was declared the winner of her race against Republican Jim Oberweis.

Laya Neelakandan, Reporter

After winning a tight race in a historically red district in 2018, U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Naperville) is looking to hold on to her seat in Illinois’ 14th Congressional District.

Underwood, who is the youngest Black woman to ever be elected to Congress and the first woman to represent the district, is running against State Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove) and write-in Independent Joseph Monack. No Democrat has ever been re-elected in the district, according to Underwood’s website, but she is looking to change that.

In 2018, Underwood scored a historic win, flipping the district from red to blue, by defeating four-term Republican incumbent Randy Hultgren. In her first term in Congress, Underwood has introduced 42 pieces of legislation and passed four bipartisan pieces of legislation into law, according to her website.

Even though Evanston residents cannot vote for Underwood because she represents District 14, some have volunteered in an attempt to help her win the neighboring district. Working with Indivisible Evanston, Evanston resident Mike Fisher and Glencoe resident Laura Solon have been phone banking for the representative.

“It’s important to keep the House and expand the House for Democrats,” Fisher said. “(Underwood) is such a young and dynamic individual.”

In 2018, Fisher volunteered with Underwood’s campaign because his own representative was guaranteed to win. He said he had a positive experience, which prompted him to coordinate the Indivisible Evanston phone banking effort in 2020.

Since the group started phone banking, Fisher estimates they have made 15,000 calls to registered Democrats, Republicans and undecided voters alike.

“We have an opportunity to try to persuade undecided voters,” he said. “It’s always gratifying when you find out they want to hear about your candidate.”

For Solon, the last four years motivated her to do something about the current state of politics.

She said that she felt she had not been paying attention to politics as she raised her family, but the 2016 election changed that.

“When Trump was elected, I was shocked and appalled,” Solon said. “The hatred and corruption and incompetence and lies — he’s turned this country into something we don’t like.”

To make a change in her community, she attended an Indivisible Evanston event where Underwood spoke, and Solon thought she was fantastic.

In her experience with phone banking, Solon said she has learned to not prejudge the person on the other end, but rather to “treat people as individuals.” Ultimately, she hopes she can help Underwood get re-elected to move the country in a different direction.

Similarly, District 8 resident Zachary Wilder felt compelled to phone bank for Underwood because of her platform.

Wilder said he was specifically drawn to Underwood’s commitment to making health care affordable and accessible, which is especially relevant given the recent controversy surrounding the status of the Affordable Care Act.

Wilder said in rural Illinois, many people live off of the Affordable Care Act and would not have access to health care in a pandemic without it.

“Helping to campaign for politicians I believe in is what I want to do,” Wilder said. “This was a good opportunity for me to support a politician who I think is doing everything right.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @laya_neel

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