She Runs Illinois 2020! — Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, candidate IL-13 Congressional District
She Votes Illinois is pleased to feature Betsy Dirksen Londrigan running for U.S. House of Representatives — IL-13 Congressional District. Follow our series, She Runs Illinois 2020!, leading up to election day as we showcase and uplift the voices of Illinois women running for public office in the upcoming election.
Tell us about yourself
I was born and raised in the 13th district and my family has been part of the fabric of the community for generations. I am proud that my professional life is diverse and allows me to bring a well-rounded perspective to Congress. My work as a middle-school teacher, as the first Director of Alumni Affairs for the University of Illinois-Springfield, going into business for myself as a writer and editor, and my work with non-profit organizations have all challenged me and each forced me to stretch and grow in different ways.
In 2009, when my son Jack was 12, he lay in the pediatric intensive care unit in critical condition. Jack had developed a rare, life-threatening illness from a tick bite. We were sitting in a hospital where our previously healthy son was in a medically induced coma with a ventilator breathing for him, fighting for his life. After 24 days, Jack started on the long road to recovery. I know firsthand what quality, affordable health care access means for families and in 2018, after seeing our incumbent congressman celebrating his vote to take away protections for people with pre-existing conditions, I decided to run and came within less than 1% of flipping this seat.
Instead of working for us, our current congressman takes hundreds of thousands of dollars from pharmaceutical corporate PACs while voting against lowering prescription drug costs. I refuse to take corporate PAC money, in this campaign or when I’m in Congress, because I want to be clear that I’m going to Washington to represent my neighbors across Central Illinois, not corporations and special interests.
Tell us about the women in your life
I am who I am today because of the strong women in my life. My grandmothers were forces of nature that wouldn’t comply with the expectations of their gender. One became a widow at a very young age so she took off to travel the world by herself. The other launched a one-woman effort to save an historic site from destruction, then raised the funds to save it, restore it, and get it named to the National Historic Sites registry. My mother is a rock too. She worked full-time and was the primary breadwinner in my family, in addition to being a community activist and amazing mother.
I face additional and gendered criticism as a woman running for office and firmly believe the fix for this is to elect more women, especially in central Illinois. I’m the co-founder of Women Rising, a group of women in my home county whose mission it is to recruit, support, and elect more progressive women to local offices. Men and women of all ages need to become accustomed to watching and hearing female leaders in action and we only achieve that goal by electing more women. I am determined to fight for working families in Central Illinois. More than 100 Democratic women have never served in the House of Representatives at once, and I’m ready to change that this November. I’m proud to be endorsed by EMILY’s List, an organization dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women to office.
What led you into politics? Why are you running for THIS office?
I am a daughter of the 13th district and I’m running for Congress because this is where my fight to protect health care is taking place. The people here are my friends and neighbors and I know firsthand what health care access means for families across our 14 counties. In 2009, my son Jack developed a rare, life-threatening illness. He was put into a medically induced coma, on a ventilator and was read his last rites twice. My husband and I lived every parent’s nightmare, but because we had access to quality health care we brought our son home and our family did not go bankrupt. As I travel around the 13th district, the number one issue I hear about is still health care. Whether it’s access to quality, affordable health insurance or the cost of prescription drugs, people need help.
In 2017, after seeing our congressman celebrating his vote to take away health care protections from my friends and neighbors I decided to run. Instead of working for us, we currently have a congressman who pushes the agenda of the big corporations and special interests. He has continued to take hundreds of thousands of dollars from pharmaceutical and insurance corporate PACs while voting against lowering prescription drug costs and against protections for people with pre-existing conditions. He has championed tax cuts for large corporations and the wealthy on the backs of working class families while voting against the Protecting the Right to Organize Act which would make it easier for workers to form unions and penalizes companies who interfere with their employees’ right to organize. I refuse to take any corporate PAC money, in this campaign or when I’m in Congress, because I want to be very clear with my neighbors across the 13th district that I’m going to Washington to represent THEM, not corporations and special interests.
What policies will you push for to ensure that people with lengthy recoveries or chronic health issues from COVID19 can access the healthcare they need?
I believe health care is a right, not a privilege, and my priority remains ensuring universal access to quality, affordable health care. I will work to stabilize the Affordable Care Act so no one loses coverage and protect all Essential Health Benefits. I will work to pass into law the Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019 which will allow Medicare to directly negotiate lower prescription drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies as well as support a public option through Medicare that ensures hospitals can maintain high levels of care and drives down costs, starting with rural communities and small businesses.We also must recognize and fight inequities in our health care, education and employment across racial and socio-economic lines have been highlighted during the pandemic and which must be addressed.
What do you believe the greatest challenges are to creating a more racially just legal and political system?
Systemic racism exists in every corner of America and we need to rethink our public safety strategies by listening to our Black and Brown communities. We must help local governments ensure their budgets allow for intervention by other professionals, such as those specializing in addiction and mental health services, recognizing that different situations require different interventions. Federal funding for law enforcement should also be contingent on their implementation of reforms like those aimed at combatting racial profiling and banning the use of chokeholds.
Fighting voter suppression tactics and expanding opportunities to vote are critical to making sure the voices of our minority communities are heard. Additionally, training and hiring more people of color on campaigns is important to creating a larger pipeline for senior campaign staff and candidates.
I have been to multiple Black Lives Matter rallies across the district and have seen that people are awake and recognize that we have to do better. We need substantial changes to our clearly broken system and I will continue to be part of that change as your next Congresswoman.
What are the most overlooked issues from a policy perspective impacting women in your district?
All social, economic and political issues are women’s issues and our input is missed when we aren’t at the decision making tables. At the base of these issues is equality. Equal pay, equal access, equal treatment under the law, and equal rights to govern our own bodies are fundamentally necessary for our advancement. I trust women to make the best health care decisions for themselves and their families. The right to access safe, legal abortion services must be protected and I’m proud to once again receive the support of groups like EMILY’s List and Planned Parenthood. I strongly support the current law, embodied in the Roe v. Wade ruling protecting this right, unlike our current representative who recently called for the Supreme Court to consider overturning nearly 50 years of precedent. I will also fight to ensure equal pay for equal work and enact workplace policies that allow for family leave and flexibility in caring for children and elderly family members
We need more women in office so leadership can look like the communities they represent. Less than ¼ of Congress is female and that needs to change. I am a co-founder of a group called Women Rising, an organization dedicated to recruiting and supporting progressive women running at the state and local level. We have continued to grow this organization and just last spring of the 14 women candidates we worked with, 10 were elected to local office.
What do you wish you had known before you decided to run for office?
If I had known how many wonderful people I would meet across Central Illinois I may have considered running for office sooner. There is a special intimacy created when I meet someone on the campaign trail and they share their fears and concerns. It’s also amazing to know that some of our most dedicated volunteers and advocates were strangers when we began this journey. In fact, two of my opponents for the 2018 Primary have become not just dear friends, but surrogates who attend events on my behalf when my schedule conflicts.
Sisterhood on the campaign trail is real. Women candidates gravitate to other women candidates. We fix missed zippers. We vent. We laugh. We trade lessons learned. We support each other.
Instead of working for us, we currently have a Congressman who votes for the big corporations and special interests. Rep. Davis has voted eleven times to repeal the Affordable Care Act with no replacement. He takes hundreds of thousands of dollars from Big Pharma corporate PACs while voting against lowering prescription drug costs. He has taken money from Big Oil corporate PACs and the NRA while voting against legislation to keep us in the Paris Climate Accord and against requiring universal background checks for firearm purchases. These votes are in opposition to the expressed needs of people throughout the 13th district.
I am running to carry the concerns of the people of the 13th to Washington. As a lifelong resident, voter, taxpayer and mother in this community, I know firsthand the challenges that people in Central Illinois face. I have focused my campaign on bringing people together to solve these challenges and I refuse to take any corporate PAC money, in this campaign or when I’m in Congress, because I want to be very clear with my neighbors across the 13th district that I’m going to Washington to represent THEM, not the corporations and special interests.
If you would like to learn more about Betsy Dirksen Londrigan and her platform or volunteer for her campaign, please check out her website at betsydirksenlondrigan.com. Don’t forget to follow her on Facebook at @BetsyDirksenLondrigan. Reach out today and help make a difference in the upcoming 2020 election.
(The information contained in this post is provided only as general information and does not imply an endorsement by She Votes Illinois.)