Panel of local leaders discusses importance of voter turnout, campaign involvement at NU Democrats event


Joanne Haner/Daily Senior Staffer

Chicago’s 17th Ward Alderman Daniel Moore and Mayor of Highland Park Nancy Rotering seated next to each other. Five local politicians and judges spoke to Northwestern University College Democrats Tuesday.

Avani Kalra, Audience Engagement Editor

Five local leaders answered questions about their experiences pursuing political and judicial leadership paths at an event hosted by Northwestern University College Democrats Tuesday. 

Panel members emphasized the importance of voter turnout at every level of government, especially among students shaping the next generation of leaders.

We are in the fight of your generation,” State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (D-Glenview) said. “The most existential, the most fundamental questions are really on the ballot right now. Your generation will define the future of the nation.” 

Panelists said young people are more needed than ever, with the U.S. Supreme Court poised to potentially overturn Roe v. Wade. Gong-Gershowitz encouraged students to use the news as motivation to vote because future elections might impact the right to choose. 

While Gong-Gershowitz said abortion will remain protected in Illinois regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, a federal abortion ban would remove that right. 

“I find it profoundly offensive that it will be in the hands of a body to make the decision about whether we have that right,” Gong-Gershowitz said. “Everything that we’ve done in Illinois will be secondary to federal law. So every single election matters.”

She emphasized the court’s likely ruling makes the work of Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, another panelist running for Illinois Supreme Court, all the more important. Gong-Gershowitz said it’s crucial Rotering wins the November race. 

Rotering said Democratic leaders asked her to run because Democrats must retain the seat. 

“This open seat on the (state) Supreme Court will likely be the tie-breaking seat,” Rotering said. “So I am now running this crazy race for Illinois Supreme Court justice.” 

Chicago Ald.David Moore (17th) said he understands constituents’ frustrations about politics and the reasons people question voting’s impact.

However, he still encouraged students to get out and vote. 

“You don’t have to wait until you get into the seat,” he said. “You can have an impact and change your government. You should want to break the system.”

Running for office isn’t always as cut-and-dry as it appears, said State Sen. Laura Fine (D-Glenview), who acknowledged some of the gender-disparities that exist in Illinois politics. She said as a woman, she had to consider her timing when running for office. When Fine ran for state Senate, she said many men asked her why she would give up her seat in the House.

Eventually, Fine said Gong-Gershowitz asked her what she would do if she were a man, which finally convinced her to run. She encouraged young people to do the same: run for office, get involved with local campaigns and at the very least, vote. 

“If you vote and you are sad about the outcome, I will cry with you. If you’re happy about the outcome, I will celebrate with you. But if you don’t vote, it’s your problem,” Fine said. 

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Twitter: @avanidkalra

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