She Runs Illinois 2020! — Carol Ammons, candidate for IL House of Representatives, District 103
She Votes Illinois is pleased to feature Carol Ammons, incumbent, running for Illinois House of Representatives, District 103. 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
Rep. Carol Ammons is running for re-election for State Representative in the 103rd District of Illinois. As a career activist fighting for equality and justice, Rep. Ammons became the first African American woman elected to the 103rd district in 2014. While in office, Rep. Ammons has passed the License to Work Act, Mahomet Aquifer protections, coal-ash cleanup, a minimum wage raise, the Fair Tax Act, and two balanced budgets that have brought over $1.2 billion in resources to her constituents. Additionally, Rep. Ammons worked alongside her colleagues across all government branches on the Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices and continues this work to end cash bail in Illinois. Rep. Ammons is an activist at heart who works to bridge the gap between grassroots advocacy and legislation. As an independent Democrat, Rep. Ammons is laser-focused on using her twenty years of advocacy and experience in local and state politics to ensure that our government works for everyone in Illinois, not just those at the top.
Tell us about the women in your life
I love the women in my life. First and foremost, my daughter Tatianna has inspired me since the day she was born and she continues to inspire me to this day. Her heart, her dedication to activism, and her persistence through her fight with Multiple Sclerosis all encourage me to work harder. And as I think about our future generation of leaders, I think about the women I looked up to. I know that I stand on the shoulders of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisholm, Carole Moseley Braun, Maxine Waters, and all the other Black women who have taught me how to move through this world. Women are the center of why I run because you cannot be just “woman;” there is always an intersection. And too often the nuances of Black women’s issues are ignored in politics. With every bill I pass, I bring a Black woman’s experience to the negotiation table and I think we forget just how important that is, who fought for us to be here, and how hard we have to keep fighting so our daughters can continue this work.
What led you into politics? Why are you running for THIS office?
I have always wanted to be in politics, I felt it in my soul from a very young age. However, I started in activism. My husband and I have worked hard to make sure that we are perpetual students of the Civil Rights movement and the Black Power movement. Once the moment was right, I decided to run for municipal office, and then county office, and now I am fighting to continue my work as State Rep. in Champaign-Urbana. I love this work with all my heart.
Recognizing that COVID-19 has hit state and local budgets hard, where would you reduce/eliminate spending to ensure pressing needs are answered?
As a legislator who recently passed COVID-19 response legislation, I can tell you that it is no easy task. My main concern is always for the people. There have been so many mistakes made at the federal level where PPP loans are going to billionaires and wealthy corporations. I focus on those who are suffering the most and making the legislation work for them. No matter how much you cut or spend, budgets are moral documents and they will always reflect what governing body values. For example, instead of funding programs like mass incarceration, I would directly reallocate those funds to housing security, education, and child support. And then, after we recover, I would keep the focus on community-driven social programs rather than the prison industrial complex.
What do you believe the greatest challenges are to creating a more racially just legal and political system?
I think we should start at the beginning. Education has got to be the single most important component to dismantling systems of white supremacy. So much of what we teach our children is either whitewashed, half-truths, or flat out lies. We must stop romanticizing the atrocities this country has committed since its inception and replace the systems of white male dominance, with inclusivity. An example of this would be to take down every single statue or monument that celebrates the Confederacy and put them in history museums and textbooks where people can fully comprehend their historical context. We need to pull back the veil and reshape America to reflect the genuinely beautiful diversity of its population. As a country, we lose out on so much when we erase cultures and appropriate them. Rather than push entire groups of people aside, we must embrace each other for what we bring to this nation. We can’t just tell little girls they can be whatever they want to be, we have to show them and train them into positions of power.
What are the most overlooked issues from a policy perspective impacting women in your district?
My staff and I have this saying “Everything is connected, nothing happens in a vacuum.” and I think that could apply here. If I had to pick two issues that are the most overlooked, it would be housing and healthcare, hands down. But there isn’t a policy issue out there that doesn’t impact women, especially Black women. Toxic waste from energy companies in one of our neighborhoods, women being underrepresented and understudied in medicine, poverty, and the housing crisis in Champaign-Urbana, just to name a few. And as I mentioned, they’re all connected. Women who don’t earn a living wage can’t afford the fancy new houses and apartments going up around town so they’re priced into neighborhoods that energy companies use to dump toxic waste, and then when they get sick they either don’t have access to health insurance or they have a hard time being respected in healthcare. And all of this is not to say that each of these things happens to every single woman, but all of these problems exist, and they all connect to each other.
What do you wish you had known before you decided to run for office?
There is something that has always baffled me. Why is it that white people can represent Black people, but Black people can’t represent white people? There’s a specific kind of vitriol that Black women have to deal with when they become politicians. I suppose it shows us just how pervasive the cruelty of racism is.
People should vote for me this fall because my record is solid. I have been a consistently progressive representative, and I fight for those who have been otherized by white male systems. I stand up to special interest groups and lobbyists because no-one owns me. I truly work for my constituents and the people of this state. My ultimate goal is to simply make Illinois a more equal and equitable state. Law by law, I want to show our most vulnerable communities that they matter.
If you would like to learn more about Carol Ammons and her platform or volunteer for her campaign, please check out her website at carolammons.com. Don’t forget to follow her on social media at @carolammons4IL. 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.)