She Runs Illinois 2020! — Terra Costa Howard, candidate for IL House Rep, District 48
She Votes Illinois is pleased to feature Terra Costa Howard, incumbent, running for IL House of Representatives, District 48. 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 am a lawyer, a small business owner, a wife, a mother, and an advocate for children and people in need.
I was born and raised in DuPage County, and I have lived in the 48th district for more than 20 years. After earning my B.A. in political science and speech communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a law degree at DePaul University, I started my legal career as a staff attorney at the DuPage County 18th Judicial Circuit Court and then went on to serve in the DuPage County Public Defender’s Office. Since 2003, I have worked as a sole practitioner, fighting for the rights of children, elderly people, people with disabilities, and families caught in custody and visitation disputes.
I also worked alongside my husband, Nick, to start up a software development company based in Glen Ellyn. Through my experience in helping to build a new venture, I have proven that it’s possible for a business to achieve great success while paying employees a fair wage and providing health coverage.
I discovered my passion for public service when I ran for Glen Ellyn School District 41 Board of Education in 2005. I served two terms, including two years as Board President. While on the school board, I helped to forge contract agreements that met the needs of teachers and school support staff — and taxpayers — while making sure the school district’s budget remained balanced.
I decide to run for State Representative in 2018 because I believe the people of the 48th District deserve excellent public schools, fair taxes and the freedom to make their own health decisions without government interference.
Tell us about the women in your life
I have had the tremendous good fortune to be elected as part of an amazing talented, energetic, and committed group of freshman Democratic women. We all knew that it was time to change the culture in Springfield, and it seems that we women were the ones who had to do it!
Over the past two years, it has been an extraordinary experience to watch this group of women stand together and support each other in our shared refusal to accept the status quo. I was so proud to join forces with my sisters when we asserted our independence and calling for a vote on the Reproductive Health Act. Working together, we developed a winning strategy and passed strong, lasting protection of every Illinois woman’s right to make her own decisions about her healthcare, including her reproductive choices. I also was very proud to have their complete support for my bills to create new protections for victims of stalking and domestic violence and tougher penalties for human trafficking.
What led you into politics? Why are you running for THIS office?
I first ran for State Representative because I was tired of extreme politicians putting their own partisan interests and anti-woman attitudes ahead of our families. So I decided to stand up for the values of my community, and I’m so honored that the people of the 48th District chose to put their trust in me.
How will you help ensure equitable access to healthcare for people in Black and Brown communities that are hardest hit by the coronavirus?
We need to start this conversation from the basic principle that health care is right, not a privilege. It is simply wrong that our healthcare system makes it so difficult for so many people to access the care that they and their families desperately need.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on the horrible inequities of our current system, and the devastating impacts both on individual health outcomes and community access to care. Our insistence that Black (and Brown) lives matter must include transformational change in our health care systems.
This is an enormous issue, and one that must be addressed at every level of government. I am not an expert in health care policy, by any means. But as an attorney and court-appointed guardian ad litem for children and vulnerable adults, I’ve worked to help clients whose lives have been devastated by the failures of our healthcare system. And I do have some ideas that would help to bring lifesaving equity to our broken system.
For example, our Medicaid system must be overhauled, with a focus on creating true access for underserved communities. Not long ago, a child I represented needed an evaluation, and the family couldn’t find a hospital that would accept Medicaid. It was so difficult for them. Even though we finally found a provider, the only hospital that would accept the child was so far from the family’s home, creating an additional burden for a family that was already dealing with a crisis.
It is important to make sure that our Medicaid rates are set fairly — low enough that taxpayers are not overburdened, but reasonable enough to keep providers from leaving the system. So we need to bring all stakeholders to the table to make sure that the system is working appropriately. We also need to commit to passing a budget each year that will fund the state’s health programs so that patients have timely access to care and providers get paid on a reasonable schedule.
I think that managed care may provide some opportunities to reduce Medicaid costs while still providing excellent care to people in the program, but we need to avoid creating incentives that will enrich HMOs while reducing access or quality of care for vulnerable people here in Illinois.
Have you participated in any BLM protests? What influenced your decision?
I was so proud to stand with so many of my constituents at peaceful demonstrations here in support of BLM in DuPage County, and I have been honored to join my fellow legislators in speaking for justice in other Illinois communities.
It is interesting that you ask about my “decision” to participate. I didn’t view it as a decision — rather, I felt it was my responsibility as an elected leader to stand beside the people of my community and make our voices heard at this pivotal time in our nation’s history.
In the weeks that have passed since George Floyd’s death, I have hosted a series of virtual conversations on race in the suburbs, bringing together activists, law enforcement, and community members. I have been very encouraged by the number of participants and by the candor and compassion shown by all sides. I look forward to continuing these public conversations in the months ahead.
I understand that as a privileged white woman, I will never fully understand what it means to be a BIPOC in this country. But, as we move forward, I am willing to do what I can to accept responsibility and find transformational solutions. In the words of the great writer, James Baldwin, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
How will you ensure that women and femmes sitting at intersections of oppression are prioritized for policy that will help their quality of life?
I am keenly aware of my responsibility to stand up for people who have been ignored or actively oppressed by our government and our society. I was very proud to win the endorsement of Equality Illinois when I first ran for office, and I have worked hard to represent the interests of every person in my district.
Last year, I had the honor to stand up for our LGBTQ youth when a public elementary school in Wheaton abruptly canceled its invitation to award-winning author Robin Stevenson. Robin, the author of Kid Activists and many other children’s books, had planned to talk to the students about what it’s like to be a writer and how kids can fight injustice. But she was disinvited after a few parents complained because her book includes pioneering gay rights activist Harvey Milk and transgender activist Janet Mock.
That wasn’t right. So I invited Robin back to DuPage County, to talk about her book and the need to let ALL children know that they are valued for who they are and what they can become. It was incredibly moving to hear Robin talk about her own life — and I was brought to tears when gay and trans students came up to us and told us how much it meant to them that we were not willing to stand by and allow a few bigoted people to erase the names and lives of people like them.
What do you wish you had known before you decided to run for office?
I had no idea that being a state legislator was such incredibly hard work! I love it, but it’s not a job for the faint of heart. When we’re in session in Springfield, it’s just nonstop. And when I’m at home in my district, my days are full of meetings with advocacy groups, village leaders, and other elected officials — not to mention the hundreds and hundreds of constituent questions and requests for help that we receive.
At the same time, I had no idea how much I would love this work, and I couldn’t have anticipated how gratifying it is when I’m able to help someone get services they need, or when I join with my colleagues to pass new laws that will make Illinois a better place to live, for all of us.
I’ve called Illinois home all my life. That’s why I’m proud to stand up to the special interests in Springfield and fighting for the values we all share — trust, common sense, honesty, and respect for everyone. I’m asking for your vote so I can keep on defending the values we all share — strengthening our schools, defending women and reproductive health care, lowering the tax burden on working families, and making quality health care affordable for everyone.
If you would like to learn more about Terra Costa Howard and her platform or volunteer for her campaign, please check out her website at tchfor48.com. Don’t forget to follow her on social media @tchfor48. 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.)