She Runs Illinois 2020! — Dani Brzozowski, candidate for IL-16 Congressional District
She Votes Illinois is pleased to feature Dani Brzozowski, running for U.S. House of Representatives — IL-16 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 grew up on Army bases all over the world — my dad is a Gulf War veteran who served for 25 years — before we moved to the middle of this big district when he was put on recruiting duty. A strong sense of community has been the driving force behind my entire career — I worked in nonprofits for 15 years, served on a number of civic and philanthropic boards, and owned a small business that was a community center in my hometown. I decided to run for Congress because my family struggled — we were on food stamps and lived in trailers and homes we couldn’t afford to heat. As I made a career out of trying to help other people and lift my community up, I realized my family’s struggles weren’t unique and that, in fact, for far too many families, it’s getting harder, not easier to get by. I’m running for Congress to give the people of this district and people like them all over this country that kind of fighting chance they deserve and the kind of representation who’s going to make sure they get it.
Tell us about the women in your life
My lived experience as a woman is the primary lens through which I view the world; my feminism is intersectional and the driving force behind so much of my service. The sexism I have faced as a woman running for office has ranged from the frustrating (men making repeated comments about my appearance, men assuming I am less knowledgeable than I am, men interrupting and overtalking) to the heinous (the first time I asked for a campaign donation, the would-be donor groped me as I left his office). That sexism is a barrier to entry for far too many women, and it takes women in positions of power and authority to bring down those barriers.
I hold a great deal of admiration for strong female leaders — from Ann Richards, former Democratic governor of Texas to Cleopatra. The women I admire most are those who live bold lives, who step into their power and live their truths, fighting for the principles they believe in according to the values they hold dear. The women who do this are the ones I aspire to emulate — they include politicians like Ayanna Pressley and Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton and activists like Assata Shakur, Angela Davis, and Gloria Steinem.
I also admire the young womxn in my community who have been the backbone of the Black Lives Matter movement — young womxn who’ve been called to action in a way they never were before, young womxn who’ve set aside their discomfort with being the center of attention, their discomfort with expressing their anger, their fears of making themselves targets of violence and dissent, all in the name of fighting for justice and equality.
Last, I am the mother of a young daughter. My daughter is strong and smart and has a fierce sense of justice. She’s a source of inspiration for me and the standard to which she holds me accountable is a benchmark for whether I’m working for the right causes. If it incites a fire in Sadie, I know it should be lighting one for me, too.
What led you into politics? Why are you running for THIS office?
I grew up understanding the value of public service. I watched the sacrifices my dad made, and my mom alongside him, and learned early what that the breadth of opportunities to serve might look like. After a career spent working largely in nonprofits, I recognized that the injustices I was combatting were the consequences of systemic shortcomings of a government that has failed its people in too many ways to count. The legislature is where the responsibility for those shortcomings lies. It’s also where the real potential for change is.
My opponent has failed the people of our shared district at every turn. He has voted against women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, farmers, veterans, small business owners, the entire middle class, anyone with a preexisting condition…the list goes on and on. The injustice of bad representation is a problem with an obvious solution; the solution is democracy, and electoral process that permits the people to exercise their power by voting in an alternative who will fight for them. I’m that fighter.
What do you feel should be the balance between taking the advice of health experts to continue social distancing and reopening the economy in order to ensure that people are able to make a living?
It is the role of the government to serve the greater good. The government has failed to do so repeatedly over the course of this pandemic, putting the people of this country at significant health risk and favoring at every turn short-term gains in the economy at the expense of lives and livelihoods. It isn’t an either/or proposition — the long term economic costs of reopening businesses in the midst of a pandemic that, at the time of this writing, is still spreading rapidly, far outweigh the short-term economic benefits of prematurely reopening the economy only to have the pandemic continue to spread. Social distancing saves lives.
Recognizing that systemic racism is built into policies and laws, what changes to policies and laws are you prioritizing for change/implementation in order to address systemic racism and why?
The broad set of policies on which this campaign is built — Medicare for All, free tuition for public colleges and universities, $15 minimum wage, a federal housing guarantee — all lift up communities of color, who are disproportionately affected by a lack of access to healthcare, education, livable wage jobs, and affordable housing. In addition to these foundational policies, our campaign stands for sweeping criminal justice reform — ending cash bail, abolishing for-profit prisons, federal legalization of cannabis, etc — which addresses inequities in the criminal justice system, which targets Black and brown people in this country.
Since the murder of George Floyd, I have stood in solidarity with demonstrators throughout this district, calling for an end to police brutality. I’ve marched with abolitionists and sat in meetings with municipal law enforcement and my perspective is that we need a transformational overhaul of the way we approach public safety. We need to rethink how we invest in our communities and prioritize schools, libraries, economic support for struggling neighborhoods, access to mental health services, and so on. We have a white paper on what proper appropriations might look like and how the federal government’s role should be executed. The bloated police budgets and militarization of municipal law enforcement should be things of the past, and I’m committed to fighting for this change when I’m elected to Congress.
What is the most important policy you could implement that would help women?
Universal Childcare, paid for by a small tax on the wealthiest Americans, is the most important policy I support that will help women. The average cost of childcare ranges from $800-$1,230 a month. With a 2% additional tax on Americans making over $10 million per year, we could fund childcare for all families that make less than 200% of the Federal poverty line, and also cap childcare costs for all other families at 7% of their income. This policy will benefit working families and mothers, saving them tens of thousands of dollars a year. As schools inevitably move back to remote learning at some point in the upcoming school year, the issue of childcare costs will become even more of a burden on families.
What do you wish you had known before you decided to run for office?
That the best way to evaluate your decisions is by measuring them against your values. Policies might waver, new information might push you to evolve, but committing to your principles and standing by them will serve you well.
I come at this work from the perspective of someone who sincerely wants to do right by the people of this community. That level of earnestness isn’t something you can fake — voters recognize my sincerity for what it is and our commitment to authenticity on this campaign isn’t just going to help us win — it’s also going to help us restore faith in democracy, the electoral process, and our public servants.
If you would like to learn more about Dani Brzozowski and her platform or volunteer for her campaign, please check out her website at daniforillinois.com. Don’t forget to follow her on social media at @daniforillinois. 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.)