David Schroeder has been dealing with a lot of good news lately. Of all of the LGBT Democratic candidates going up against the machine in Illinois, Schroeder is faring best--with a Chicago Tribune endorsement on the morning of the 21st, and several other high profile endorsements. His poll numbers are also soaring, and unlike many of the other LGBT candidates I interviewed, Schroeder is seeing a lot of support from the Illinois Democratic establishment. With good reason, too. Schroeder is a solid progressive that is looking to clean up in a economically diverse district that's just become too accustomed to being ignored by its current State Assembly Representative, Ken Dunkin.
Every day it looks more and more as if Dave Schroeder will be joining openly gay Representatives Deb Mell and Greg Harris in the Illinois Assembly. This is good news for gays everywhere, as its looking more than ever as if Illinois is ready to tackle relationship recognition in the law, which would make it one of less than a dozen states that do recognize same-sex couples legally.
More than just relationship recognition, though, Schroeder is a real progressive who is ready to tackle the incredibly daunting issues that will plague the Illinois legislature this year--and he'll do so with a clear head and a goal of reform.
I recently got to have an extremely pleasant conversation with (future Representative) Schroeder about his historic campaign, and about what this means for the greater LGBT rights movement. This pro-healthcare, pro-reform candidate is the kind of candidate the entire progressive movement can get behind--and are. The Fifth District is one of the most diverse districts in Chicago--a long meandering district that goes from the wealthy Trump high-rises down through the south loop all the way to the South Side. There's a lot on this guy's plate.
Schroeder lit the fire when Governor Blagojavech was arrested, "I was extremely upset about the allegations against the governor," Schroeder tells me. "I disagreed with a lot of his policies, and what he was doing to the State and to the Democratic Party."
"When they got around to impeaching him, my State Representative [Ken Dunkin] was the only member of the General Assembly who didn't even show up for that vote." He recalls. "I thought that was a very important vote--it was the only time in we've ever impeached a governor in the history of the state."
"I started looking at his record, and just realized after talking to a bunch of people, the district was being very underserved and was getting very little production out of our current state representative. When I found out noone was running against him," Dave says with Pride, "I decided 'I can do this!'"
"We have the highest sales tax in the entire United States in Chicago," said Schroeder continues, "there has been numerous attempts to roll that back," but Dave laments that, thanks to his representative, there has been little traction on lowering these regressive taxes that hit the poor hardest. "There was a vote before the General Assembly to roll back that 1% sales tax, and Ken Voted against it."
Dave is looking at jumping in right away to present bills in Illinois to freeze spending and balance the budget before the state falls into worse shape. He also wants to see more bills that provide better working conditions for the hotel and restaurant workers and those that work hardest in our communities.
"I'm very disappointed in the bill the legislature passed in April--the 31 billion dollar infrastructure bill," Dave said, "It hasn't employed anyone yet. We missed the entire 2009 building season. And for a bill that has two major purposes--one of which is to create jobs--it was pretty disappointed that no jobs have been created yet."
What about LGBT rights?
Dave wants potential donors and supporters to know that Ken Dunkin has not come out in support of either Civil Unions nor marriage equality, and that Gwen Drake--the third candidate who would support a Constitutional amendment banning marriage equality--blew off the Tribune questionnaire for the American Family Association's to be sure that she made perfectly clear she is as far from Progressive as possible.
Since Illinois outlaws discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, Dave thinks our state can be a model for our nation when it comes to passing those same protections on a Federal level. "Illinois legislature pass a resolution encouraging Congress to pass ENDA [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act]," Dave said. "We could also do more to elect new and better Democrats to reliably Democratic districts that support ENDA... or make better efforts to defeat Republicans that don't support it at all." With Mark Kirk (one of the few LGBT-positive Republicans on Capital Hill) running for the US Senate from Illinois, he sees an opportunity to fill that seat with a Democrat who is a solid yes on ENDA, and repealing Don't Ask-Don't Tell.
He does see a great precedent that could be set if Mark Kirk obtains the Republican nomination for President Barak Obama's former United States Senate seat and is up against--almost surely--a pro-LGBT Democrat, especially if openly gay Jacob Meister wins the Democratic nomination. "With electing people to US Senate--obviously its gotta go through both houses--if we have the luxury of having a US Senate contest where the Republican candidate is in favor of passing ENDA and repealing DADT and the Democrat is as well then great!" Such a contest could spell a positive future for LGBT bills in Washington.
On the issue of relationship recognition, Dave Schroeder sees Illinois as a bellwether state. "I think we're probably a handful of votes away from getting Civil Unions passed in Illinois." A vote that his opponent will not commit to. "I would vote for civil unions, although I'm actually a marriage equality person--I think that civil unions just creates a separate but equal class structure that I just disagree with--until we can actually get marriage equ passed civil unions would provide certain rights to people that need them in the interim, and I would support that bill in the interim. This race in particular would be important on that issue because [Rep Dunkin] has not ever publicly committed to supporting civil unions... this is an opportunity to change what would be a "no" vote into a "yes" vote."
"This is a Democratic district so the Primary is the real race. Assuming the voters are kind enough to elect me in the Democratic primary, I will be in touch with Representative Greg Harris about the role I'll play [in the relationship recognition battle] in January 2011."
"Illinois politics are about as broken as i've ever seen them. We are desperately in need of major change in the way business is done down in Springfield. Somebody said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If we keep electing the same people to go down and do the state's business, how do we expect to change things in way of culture? [Ken Dunkin], the incumbent has shown again and again that he is not responsive to constituents." Dave Schroeder will be a different politician. He wants his constituents to know that he's going to be as available and responsive as Ken Dunkin isn't.
David Schroeder has a strong sense of where Ken Dunkin--his primary opponent--has steered off course in the district. "The incumbent has also really more on a personal level developed bad relationships with many [Chicago] aldermen, The Speaker of the House, and [LGBT ally] Mayor Daly. While I have many disagreements with many of those people, I believe its better to at least be on a better cordial basis with them. I think the district better served by someone who wants to build bridges."
Dave finishes our discussion with some humor, "To steal a line, if people think they are better off now than they were seven years ago, vote for Ken Dunkin, and if not, vote for me."