United States Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-7th) formally announced that he would be running for an 11th term in Congress during a press conference held in Chicago’s Austin community on his birthday, Sunday, Sept. 6.
The 74-year-old legislator seemed to preempt what could be a constant campaign theme heading into the 2016 campaign. Standing on his ever-present cane — a keepsake from his travels in Nairobi, Kenya — the congressman told a crowd of roughly 150 supporters that his age would be an asset.
“In some legislative bodies, seniority does make some difference. I am number 73 in the House of Representatives out of 435 representatives,” said Davis to applause from a crowd of supporters flanking him.
“Our country and our world are in such dire straits right now until I’m totally convinced that we need as much seasoned leadership as we can get.”
Davis’ 7th District includes North Riverside west of 14th Avenue and about a block of Brookfield’s northernmost tip.
Davis’s first official campaign speech was heavy on statistics, with the congressman noting that his congressional district received more than $4.4 billion in federal dollars, nearly 10,000 federal contracts, more than 4,600 grants and more than 1,800 loans last year.
“We have also passed meaningful bills that impact the whole country,” said Davis, before referencing what he considers his signature piece of legislation — the Second Chance Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007.
The law is designed to smooth the transition of convicted felons back into the larger society by funding various prisoner reentry programs and providing job training opportunities, among other aspects of the law.
“But that’s not the only thing,” Davis said, adding that his office also helped pass “bills in education” and “child welfare.”
State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-4th), who joined the group of supporters standing in back of the legislator during Sunday’s press conference, said if it weren’t for Davis, Illinois wouldn’t have an affordable housing program designed to mitigate the state’s homeless problem.
Lightford was among a bevy of elected officials who showed up to support, if not explicitly endorse, Davis. Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough, state Rep. LaShawn K. Ford (D-8th), state Rep. Camille Lilly (D-77th) and Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown were also among those in attendance.
Notably absent, however, was Davis’s protégé and former chief of staff, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (D-1st), who announced last month that he is actively exploring a run for the U.S. Senate.
Andrea Zopp, one of Boykin’s biggest obstacles to securing a Democratic nomination should he decide to run for the seat currently held by Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, was in attendance.
Davis’s re-election defense was dampened somewhat after a reporter asked about the congressman’s niece, Quinshaunta R. Golden, who pleaded guilty last year to theft, bribery and obstruction of justice in a $400,000 kickback scheme.
Golden, 46, was chief of staff to the Illinois public health department, which was headed at the time by Dr. Eric Whitaker, a close friend of President Barack Obama.
When asked whether or not he recommended Golden for the state position, some of Davis’s supporters began booing. Davis said his niece is “one of the smartest young women I’ve ever known in my life, so she didn’t need any recommendation from me to get a job.”
Davis, who has been in office since 1997, was re-elected in 2014 with 85 percent of the vote against Republican challenger Robert Bumpers.
There have been a host of other potential candidates rumored to be eyeing Davis’ seat if he had opted not to seek re-election, but only two — Chicago police officer and former mayoral candidate Frederick Collins; and Iraq War veteran, journalist and entrepreneur Thomas Day — have confirmed that they’ll challenge the popular politician in next year’s election.
Davis said he hopes that the ticket on which he runs is headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“We’ve got to do everything in our power to try to make sure we elect a Democrat to succeed Barack Obama,” he said, adding that he endorsed Clinton “a long time ago.”