She Runs Illinois 2020! — Meg Loughran Cappel, candidate for IL State Senate, District 49
She Votes Illinois is pleased to feature Meg Loughran Cappel, running for IL State Senate, District 49. 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
My name is Meg Loughran Cappel. Throughout my life, I have been a special education teacher, a School Board member, a union member/representative, a small business owner, and a mother in Will County. I grew up in Joliet, Illinois and moved to Shorewood in 2015 to be closer to my parents. I have deep roots in Will County, as all sides of my family immigrated to this area in the late 1800’s and haven’t really left since. I have always been involved in my community, whether it was through church outreach, coaching cheer, or volunteering in my children’s PTO organizations in elementary and high school. In 2017, after meeting with a local school board member, he encouraged me to run for school board. I took the risk, threw my hat in the ring, and I won. The JTHS 204 School Board has been a great fit for me as I have been involved in area schools as a special education teacher, and throughout the last 15 years in our school’s parent groups. I believe education and area schools are the foundation of any community, and it is important to have a voice as a stakeholder and taxpayer.
As I began political life on the school board, I became much more aware of our local elected officials, namely, Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant. She was a huge advocate for our educational system — both for students AND teachers — and I began following her work in the 49th. When she announced that she would be running for Will County Executive, I was encouraged to run for her seat. I knew her moving on would be a tremendous loss to our district, so I decided to take an even bigger risk in hopes to further her legacy of advocacy for public education. With my experience as a special education teacher, a School Board member, a union member/representative, a small business owner, and a mother, I will provide a voice at the table in Springfield for all working families.
Tell us about the women in your life
With my upbringing, women had an equal voice with men. I remember the story of my grandmother, when working in a factory while my grandfather was serving during WWII, going to her boss and telling him she wanted the job of driving a forklift (which was then considered only a man’s job). She convinced him she could do it, got the job, and the pay raise. She was the first female forklift driver in that factory. And my own mother, a stay at home mom who never finished high school, was my biggest cheerleader and always encouraged me to be whatever I wanted. She told me I could do anything because I was determined to do it. My mother made sure I was educated, with college never being optional. All this to say, I was encouraged to have a voice at the table regardless of my gender; however, as I have moved into adulthood, I have found that this is not always the case in families, churches, communities and the overall culture at large (with enough personal experience to write a book about it). This has been especially true since I have moved from the field of education, which is mostly women, into politics, which is mostly male. I have been asked questions about work/life balance that men are never asked, seen double standards played out in real time, and been dismissed by some (not all) men in politics. On the flip side, I have been encouraged by many men in politics, namely, Senator Pat McGuire, Representative John Conner, and also my good friend Joliet City Councilperson Don “Duck” Dickinson — who first encouraged me to run for school board. Despite this, misogyny is alive and well, but my hope is that as more women lead, we can continue its slow declining death. This can only occur as women encourage and support other women in leadership.
In terms of female leadership, I have watched many women in education, politics and business pioneer trails that I am walking through right now. I am serving with an amazing female School Board president and female Superintendent of Schools. However, I would be remiss to say that my female political idol is not so much national, as more local. Our current Senator, Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant is one of my political idols. She is tough, honest and a trailblazer. Her leadership — along with Assistant Majority Leader Natalie Manley — started Illinois Democratic Women of Will County, which aims to get more women involved in politics. As a result, if all of our female candidates win, we are looking to have the most female elected officials than any other county in Illinois. They have clearly demonstrated the importance of supporting other women in leadership and politics, and I intend to do the same.
With community involvement surrounding women’s issues, education has been a crucial foundation for uplifting women, particularly women in lower-resourced areas. I have been a special education teacher in a lower-income, diverse school and I have made it a priority to set standards for girls in education and be an example of what education can offer. I volunteered and coached a 4th and 5th grade girls cheer team and tried to teach them the importance of teamwork, plus self-reliance. As a school board member, we have encouraged female leadership and offered clubs/grants and other partnerships with the community — namely a partnership with the Zonta club called “fearless females” for the High School. As a State Senator, I will look to continue to address the gender pay gap, healthcare and work to stop violence against women and children.
What led you into politics? Why are you running for THIS office?
I had an interview with a school board member for a master’s class. That board member encouraged me to run for school board and said he would help me. I took the risk with his help and jumped in. He is now on the Joliet City Council, but I would have never considered it had he not both asked and helped. As I stated earlier, when Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant decided to run for Will County Executive, the same type of situation occurred. I again took the risk to run.
I am running for this particular office because I feel like I have a wealth of experiences as a mom, special education teacher, community volunteer, school board member and small business owner that can best represent my district. I will bring a “hands on” approach to Springfield and will be an advocate and voice of reason for many who do not feel like their needs are being represented.
If you were currently in office, how would you use your office to address the economic harm from COVID-19 in your community?
COVID-19 has had devastating effects on our state’s businesses, particularly small businesses. As small business owners, my husband and I saw our business come to a complete halt for almost 2 months. We were fortunate to be able to adapt by holding driving classes online; however, we are still trying to catch up with the workload and income that was lost during those 2 months. The federal government needs to step up its support to states in order to provide grants, loans, forbearances, etc. to small businesses and working families. Illinois pays more than its share in federal taxes, so it is only logical that some of those tax dollars should come back to Illinois to help. With this support, Illinois can provide grants, extend timelines for other payments, and offer low interest loans to help small businesses, particularly ones that are minority owned.
In addition, I would use my office to help set up community partnerships to provide resources and other support for struggling families. As a teacher and school board member, I have experienced how schools and other for-profit and nonprofit organizations can give back to the community. I would use my office to partner with these groups to provide additional services and support to working families in the district.
What do you believe the greatest challenges are to creating a more racially just legal and political system?
The greatest challenge to creating a racially just legal and political system is trying to bring unity and consensus on a basic human rights issue that, in many ways, is divided across party lines. What is needed is a leader who can bring people together over a common cause and communicate a vision for equity across the board. Hence, this is an issue that needs a holistic approach to address; first with an equitable education system, then with the allocation of additional resources to underserved communities such as job training, access to healthcare, transportation and basic necessities. Also, the implementation of implicit bias and cultural responsiveness training at all levels would help address racial injustice in our legal and political systems.
What is the most important policy you could implement that would help women in your district?
Addressing the gender pay gap would be a significant way to help women scale the economic ladder. We can do so by creating policy that gives women resources to start a small business, expands internships and apprenticeships for technical and trade careers, increases post-secondary education opportunities, provides for childcare and gives access to affordable healthcare including paid maternity leaves.
What do you wish you had known before you decided to run for office?
EVERYTHING! On a lighter note, it still shocks me how much fundraising you need to do to run a campaign. I am thankful that I have some fundraising experience with the volunteer work I have done in the past and know how to make cold calls. Also, I’ve had to spend a lot of time learning more about policies not related to education and trying to gain more insight about them.
As I previously mentioned, I represent a unique wealth of experiences as a mother, special education teacher, school board member, union member, and small business owner. My district consists of 3 school unit districts, 4 elementary school districts and 3 high school districts. I will bring my knowledge of education to the forefront to ensure that our schools are equitably funded, while also advocating to lower taxes for the middle class. I intend to be an accessible elected official and continue along my lifelong path of being active and involved with my community.
If you would like to learn more about Meg Loughran Cappel and her platform or volunteer for her campaign, please check out her website at megforillinois.com. Don’t forget to follow her on Facebook at @megforillinois. 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.)