Karin Norington-Reaves, the coordinator for federal workforce training for Chicago and suburban Cook County, on Sunday joined the growing list of contenders vying to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush in the new South Side and southwest suburban 1st Congressional District.
“For the past 30 years, I have been focused on public service. I have served as a teacher in elementary schools. I’ve been an attorney. And now, for the past decade, I’ve been leading workforce development and watching our working families and all of the struggles that they’re enduring,” said Norington-Reaves, 52, a resident of the Chatham neighborhood.
“I feel very strongly that my experience as an attorney, as a practitioner of workforce development, as someone who’s had an intimate look at federal policy over the past decade, I feel I am well suited to represent the citizens of the first district in Congress,” she said.
Norington-Reaves joins a field for the Democratic nomination that already includes 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell, who was the first to announce after Rush said last week he would retire at the end of his term in January. Previously announced candidates include Kirby Birgans, a Chicago teacher, Pastor Chris Butler, community activist Jahmal Cole, educator Dee Nix and attorney Michael Thompson.
The field for the June 28 primary is expected to expand even further as several elected officials and community activists and leaders look at the rare chance to compete for an open seat in Congress in a safely Democratic district. Rush is stepping down next January when his term expires after 30 years in Congress.
Norington-Reaves has served as head of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership since it was formed in July 12 as part of a collaborative effort between County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel to centralize and streamline workforce development efforts.
She previously served as deputy director of urban assistance in the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, a lawyer in the civil division of the U.S. Department of Justice and in the Maryland attorney general’s office, and as a lobbyist in Illinois for the Citizens Utility Board, among other roles.
Norington-Reaves said she would stress to the district’s voters her role in connecting people to jobs, saying her work at the workforce partnership has placed about 100,000 people in “meaningful, lasting employment.”
“I have to differentiate myself by connecting with the voters. And that means raising funds to amplify my message. It means getting out in the community and all of the communities, not just in the city of Chicago, but in suburban Cook County and all the way down to Will County,” she said.
“It means connecting with those folks, listening to them, understanding the issues that are most pressing to them, and helping them see the connection between my experience and what they’re struggling with and my capacity to actually bring about solutions and bring resources to bear,” she said.
Norington-Reaves said that if she’s elected, her priority would be to try to improve the quality of life for working families. But she said efforts to curb gun violence deserve special attention.
“We have got to get these illegal guns off the streets. We’ve got to have tougher gun laws. There’s no reason in the world a civilian should be carrying a military-grade weapon,” she said. “We absolutely have to change the laws so that we can create safer communities.”