She Runs Illinois 2020! — Jennifer Zordani, candidate for IL House of Representatives, District 47
She Votes Illinois is pleased to feature Jennifer Zordani, running for IL House of Representatives, District 47. 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
Family and work are the biggest parts of my day. I’m a financial services attorney, and I’ve been a lawyer for 25 years. I’m single and don’t have kids, so my sister’s kids get lots of attention from me. My sister and I joined households after my sister got divorced. At that time, my mom was already living with me, and we decided to move back to DuPage County. My mom died a couple of years ago but then, by chance, my dad moved in. So my sister and I combine forces to juggle work and family. Like every family, we’re focused on what it takes for each person to be healthy and safe in these tough times.
I’m grateful to have grown up in the Chicago area and so proud to live in Illinois. My town, Clarendon Hills, consistently ranks as a great place to live. Like every community, we’re adapting to the pandemic and there is robust discussion about the path forward for our children’s learning.
I’m running to represent my district because I have confidence in Illinois and our residents. We knew before the pandemic that rebuilding and restoring Illinois was going to require tough decisions about priorities and budgets. It’s going to be even more difficult now. If the voters send me to Springfield, they’re signaling they want responsive, reasonable representation for our district.
Tell us about the women in your life
I’m fortunate to have maintained friendships with women friends from every phase of my life. I might move from a neighborhood, a school, a job or a hobby, but I don’t move on from my friendships. I’ve got friends who are Democrats, Republicans and those who really dislike talking politics, and we have more in common than any political choice. I’ve got friends who are devout Christians and those who are not and we enjoy each others’ religious services when we attend life events like first communion or bat mitzvahs, and of course, weddings. I’ve got friends that are in their 30s and in their 90s. We celebrate and commiserate with each other and offer support in whatever way we can.
From a professional perspective, I became a lawyer and found a terrific place to practice law because of the women friends in my life. I worked at the Chicago Board of Trade after college- and during the 1987 crash. At the CBOT, I worked for a woman broker who was a stickler for the rules and professionalism. She set the standard for me. She showed me that in a sea of chaos, we can maintain our integrity, adhere to the rules and get the job done.
While I was working a few jobs and still looking for something more, a friend pushed me to go to law school. She is a couple decades older than me and I knew her through her husband who was a trader. When I finished law school, my former boss from the CBOT introduced me to a professional colleague whose husband’s law firm was looking for an associate to practice in the financial services arena. I interviewed and landed the job. I worked at the firm for 17 years.
I’m a strong believer in women’s mentorship, whether formal or informal, because we all need inspiration and perspective to get through our work lives. Workplace mentors are terrific, but professional mentorship from outside your workplace is invaluable.
Joining the political arena, I’ve had many men and women offer advice, and if the people choose me to represent them in Springfield, the mentors I’ll seek are those who are working hard for their communities.
What led you into politics? Why are you running for THIS office?
Residents in my district asked me to run because they feel my opponent is not accessible to them and has a spotty attendance record in Springfield. I’m running because the residents in Illinois House District 47 want action that leads to real, responsible solutions for Illinois, not rhetoric.
Residents want legislators that are focused on Illinois. My priority one is promoting Illinois as the best place to live and work in the country. We have great people, truly committed to values that make strong communities: hard work, education and equity. We have phenomenal universities, private and public. We have great natural resources; farmland and Lake Michigan. We are a transportation hub. The Chicago metropolitan area and Illinois leads as the economic engine of the Midwest region. The US economy still is the number one economy in the world and Illinois is the 5th largest economy in the US. We are exceptionally strong in many ways.
If you were currently in office, how would you use your office to address the economic harm from COVID19 in your community?
I’ll keep my focus on the core issues we had to address before the pandemic because they’ll only be more urgent going forward.
In Illinois, we have a commitment to public education that we constantly improve upon. We have great colleges and universities in Illinois, and I want to revitalize our Illinois public college and university system so that Illinois residents can choose our schools for their children’s higher education without incurring unreasonably large student loan debt. I also would like to restore vocational and technical training so that we have workers (women and men) that are ready to step into well-paying jobs in the trades. I would like increased computer and technology training so that Illinois residents fill the jobs that are created by new service businesses. Whether it is rebuilding infrastructure, converting to clean energy or delivering services dependent on software, creating jobs in Illinois depends on having a workforce schooled in the relevant skills.
I am going to continue to fight for lower costs for prescription drug affordability. My opponent is not willing to fight that fight. A glaring example of this was her failure to support the bi-partisan bill that lowered the cost of insulin for those least able to afford it. Insulin has been off patent for decades and is still subject to sky-high price increases. I want to address prescription drug costs — — and that need is going to be greater now because of COVID 19. Families who have had medical issues because of COVID 19 may have ongoing medical cost. The costs of prescription drugs should not prevent people from recovering or staying well.
I also am going to take a close look at how we define and support small businesses. Many businesses, like restaurants and bars, provide the culture of our communities, while they also provide employment and sales tax revenues. Residents think of these types of businesses first when they think of small business, but there is a wide scope of businesses that may fall under the “small business” label. There are a variety of metrics that we should be considering when we develop policies to address the economic harm from COVID 19. The Chamber and other commerce organizations regularly voice the demands of big businesses, and while we can’t ignore their input, we have to be certain to consider the businesses that are not public companies or category killers for their industry.
What do you believe the greatest challenges are to creating a more racially just legal and political system?
Lack of knowledge and insular perspectives are two challenges to creating more racial justice. It’s natural for people to develop their views based on their life experiences, but the unwillingness to believe other people’s life experiences is shocking. There are people who have never heard their child being called a horrible name because of their race, so they think it doesn’t really happen. What’s worse is a parent who think it’s no big deal, when usually that same parent would defend their own child’s emotional health and safety with all they’ve got. And there are people who stay silent when they see and hear injustice. These are barriers.
As a white woman, it’s impossible for me to understand what communities of color deal with, both socially and in our criminal justice system. I’m committed to seeking out conversations with these communities on how we can be better in Springfield and using their experience-based feedback to achieve racial equality. I don’t want to be the representative that uses communities of color for photo ops and talking points; I want to be the representative that implements change that has a real, lasting impact.
I also note that my opponent did not support improvements to the Illinois Equal Pay Act that prohibits employers from asking applicants about their salary history. The new law was designed to address income equality. In Illinois, on average when a white man makes a dollar, a white woman makes 79 cents, a black woman makes 63 cents and a Latina woman makes 48 cents.
These income disparities mean that women work harder to get to the same place as men and suffer from lower retirement savings. My opponent’s decision not to support income equality is not based on lack of knowledge, it is a choice to support discriminatory practices, mislabeled as being pro-business.
What is the most important policy you could implement that would help women in your district?
Women in our district are concerned about gun violence. They may be stay at home moms, they may have part-time jobs or full-time jobs, they may be retired, but they don’t have what Trump thinks of as a meek, “housewife” mindset. Women in my district want national gun reform. They want background checks. They know Commander Bauer was killed because a felon bought guns from sellers in Wisconsin and the lack of accountability is deadly. They want an assault weapons ban. They and their husbands may own guns, but they recognize that the need for lock- down drills in American schools is one of our nation’s greatest failures. I will advocate for common sense gun laws in Illinois because our families’ health and safety is one of women’s top priorities.
What do you wish you had known before you decided to run for office?
How emotional I can become when I hear people’s stories. I had a senior citizen share with me her need to go to a food bank for the first time in her life during this past year. She worked hard her whole life and she was embarrassed to be in need. Your heart would break if you heard her story. My opponent believes the role of government is “to help our most productive citizens” and that approach strikes me as neglectful. I am looking forward serving as the representative for everyone in our district.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my perspectives. Many of our voters appreciate when someone steps up to run for office. It is particularly difficult to run against an incumbent, but I am optimistic that the voters will turn appreciation into action and get out the vote for me. By telling friends who live in the district and by volunteering, women can take action to elect someone committed to equality. votezordani.com has more information!
If you would like to learn more about Jennifer Zordani and her platform or volunteer for her campaign, please check out her website at votezordani.com. Don’t forget to follow her on Facebook at @DemocratJenniferZordani. 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.)