Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz: State House candidate – 17th District
(Editor’s Note: The Journal & Topics is asking candidates in the November 8, 2022 local elections to provide biographical and background information about who they are and why they are running. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz of Glenview is running for re-election for the 17th Illinois State House district against Republican Bradley Martin.)
Education: BA, Indiana University, JD, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, LLM, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
Employment/professional background: Human rights and immigration lawyer and former litigator at Winston and Strawn
Elective mandate currently or previously held, and/or any other service as a volunteer, or as community, educational, etc. : Founding member and co-chair of the Illinois Unaccompanied Children Task Force; former director of the North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic; former board member of Glenview Education Foundation
How long have you lived in the district you wish to represent? : 19 years
Do you have any conflicts of interest that could arise from performing this function? If that is the case, how would you approach them? : No.
Do you have any financial or business interests within the boundaries of the district you seek to represent, or who can work in the district you seek to represent? : No.
Do you have any criminal convictions (other than a minor traffic violation)? Please explain the circumstances: No.
Who are personal heroes to you, or who provided you with meaningful advice, ideas, or example on how to live your life? How and why?: My late father, Michael L. Gong, was and still is my most important teacher, not only for the reasons parents usually are, but because his constant presence in my life served to teach the most important lesson of life – how to focus on what matters and ultimately what it means to live a life well lived. Doing the right thing came naturally to my dad, but he didn’t do things for recognition. In fact, many of his most admirable accomplishments are things he shared only with those who knew him best. An example is his early participation in the civil rights movement. When my dad was at UCLA he joined other students on buses to register black voters in the Deep South and got thrown down a flight of stairs in Mississippi or Arkansas (can’t remember which one) but he rarely spoke about it except to share in passing his observations on the time. He saw none of this as heroism, but simply as the obvious act of someone committed to their civic duty to right a grave injustice. My father’s primary motivation has always been his family and he strived to leave a better world through the choices he made every day. I learned this from my father: there are no small acts of love or charity.
What is it about you that might surprise people? : I was among the first in my party to call on President Michael Madigan to step down. What started as a small handful of us eventually grew to 19, ultimately forcing the first change in party leadership and legislative leadership in a generation.
Why should someone vote for you? : I have always acted and will always act in the best interests and values of my various and lively area. I championed women’s rights when I co-sponsored the Reproductive Health Act, achieved historic environmental progress with the Climate and Fair Jobs Act, and passed consecutive balanced budgets that put Illinois’ finances back on rails. Currently, I am working to ban assault rifles and extended magazines, reduce the cost of health care for seniors and families, and continue to improve Illinois’ excellent public education system.
Why are you running for this office? : I believe our budget is a moral document, and I believe Illinois should spend responsibly in a way that reflects the shared values of our community. That’s why I worked and helped pass a responsible, balanced budget that stabilizes Illinois’ finances, funding essential services like education, resources for the elderly, and health care. Making pension payments in full and on time – and in cases like the FY23 budget, paying them sooner – will continue to reduce the overall financial obligation while honoring commitments to retirees and being responsible stewards of our public finances.
What experience do you have that prepares you for this position? : As the sole immigration and human rights attorney in the General Assembly, my educational and professional background informs my work as chair of the Civil Judiciary and House Immigration and human rights and gives me a unique perspective in the General Assembly.
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