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A Message From the Founding Chair

Dear Friends,

laurenI know how you feel. I feel the same way. The outcome of the presidential election upset me, too. And, let’s face it, the country that we live in will be different—for the time being at least—from what we had envisioned. That much is undeniable.

But you know what? I’ve been here before. Several years ago, as a member of the Illinois state legislature, I ran for Congress in one of the most closely-watched races in the entire country that year. It was tough. It was close. And I lost with 49% of the vote.

I’d be lying if I said losing that campaign didn’t hurt—it did. But I turned my disappointment into action. We founded Tenth Dems. For over a decade now, our grassroots group has worked to elect Democrats to all levels of government within the 10th Congressional District. Since then Democrats won control of Congress, giving the country its first female Speaker of the House. My General Assembly colleague Barack Obama won his Senate campaign in Illinois and then won two presidential elections. And the House seat that almost went to Democrats in 2000 has now been won twice by Brad Schneider!

A lot has happened…but not by accident. Boy, have things changed from the days when I served as the only Democratic legislator in the state legislature from Lake County! We have won so many races. And in 2016, while other parts of the country saw a rightward pull, the 10th District bucked the trend and elected Democrats up and down the ballot.

Congratulations to all of our wonderful Democratic candidates. Some of our victorious candidates include Tammy Duckworth, Susana Mendoza, Brad Schneider, Kim Foxx, Melinda Bush, Julie Morrison, Sam Yingling, Carol Sente, and Erin Cartwright Weinstein. We’re grateful to all the candidates who ran under the Democratic banner, whether they won or lost, and were willing to put themselves forward in order to make our world a better place. Your work helping to grow the Democratic infrastructure WILL make a difference. Thank you.

In one of the most closely-watched races this campaign cycle, Democrat Brad Schneider defeated the incumbent Republican Congressman. Now, more than ever, the people of the 10th District must be represented in Washington by someone who is not afraid to stand up to Donald Trump and a right-wing Congress when they continue their assault on the environment, gun violence legislation, women’s choice, immigration reform, LGBT rights, and an economy that works for all. Fortunately, we will have Brad fighting for all of us.

And I’m so glad that Brad will represent us in the Illinois delegation along with Tammy Duckworth, who defeated Republican Mark Kirk to become our new U.S. Senator from Illinois. I must say, this is a defeat I’ve been working toward for a very long time.

Tenth Dems activists helped make a significant difference for our local 2016 candidates. Those candidates will continue to build on the progress we’ve made nationally and locally and will stand up to those looking to take us backwards.

In the end, we get the elected officials we want by starting at the grassroots level, whether it’s knocking on doors, making phone calls, or staffing offices. Though it was a good night for many of our candidates in the 10th District, the national results were heartbreaking.

So, friends, take some time (but not very much) and let’s dust ourselves off and get started again soon. It’s the only way we can build on the momentum we created in 2016. I know we can do it together.


Hon. Lauren Beth Gash
Tenth Dems Founding Chair

How I Became an Enthusiastic Volunteer for Hillary Clinton

A Personal Journey

By Bonnie Bernstein Levy

When I was growing up, Voting Day was always a happy day. I remember the excitement and pride I felt as a five-year-old, all dressed up in my best dress, wearing little white gloves, standing next to my mother in the curtained booth as she voted.

At thestevensonforprez many extended-family meals and celebrations I participated in, everyone at the grown-ups’ table was a Democrat.  And I could hear the grown-ups as they loudly discussed the issues and the candidates. So I felt informed and involved. I remember liking Adlai Stevenson who ran against Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956.  I can still see the silver shoe pin, with a hole in the bottom of the shoe.  To this day I can hear my family talk about Stevenson’s television interview where, when he crossed his leg, you could see a hole in the sole of his shoe!

We identified with Stevenson because that hole showed he wasn’t obsessed with vanity and slick looks.  He was a man who worked hard—like us.

The next campaign button I wore with enthusiasm was a shiny large pin that said: “Mamie—start packing.  The Kennedys are coming!”  I adored JFK.  We all did.  It was a time of hope and youth and excitement and promise. I still was not close to voting age, but I was an American and proud of it. How wonderful it was checking in with the local Kennedy campaign office.  How proud we were passing out literature and going door-to-door. rfk

I grew up.  I took my own daughter with me when I voted – without the white gloves.  I became a teacher.  The kids in my classes knew how proud I was to be standing with them reciting the Pledge of Allegiance each morning, and they knew I took it seriously. They modeled my strong posture, hand planted over my heart.  I felt proud that I was teaching our American system with our ideals and values to the next generation.

In 2008 I added Social Studies to my Language Arts curriculum.  How fabulous it was that I got to teach the Constitution and the electoral system—and that a neighbor of ours was running for President.  I heard kids say “My uncle goes to the same barber with him!” or “He lives down the street from us and always asks what we were learning in school.”  It was exciting that Barack Obama was one of ours.

But I didn’t ever wear another campaign button as an adult, or get involved in elections, because I felt everything was all right.

That is until now.

Last month, I listened to every word in every speech of both parties’ conventions.

First, the Republican Convention.  It was staged.  The Trump Team looked like they were pop stars auditioning for a reality show, a lot like a series of five-minute auditions for America’s Got Talent.  Appropriate, since Donald Trump created and starred in his own reality TV show, immortalizing the phrase, “You’re fired!” He craves being the star of the show. He makes no bones about it when he proclaims that he likes to win, he will win, and he will do anything he can to win.

But becoming President of the United States is not a game.  It is the opposite.  Work.  And when we hold an election we hire a President to work for us and uphold our ideals and our laws.

Donald Trump does not work well with others. He purposely surrounds himself with people who will applaud all of his ideas.

We need someone who listens thoughtfully to a variety of courses of action, even those he or she may not favor.  These are complex times, with complex issues. Donald Trump considers himself to be his own closest advisor.  And he wants us to be fearful.  He incites people to fear and to hate others.

We need a President who wants to bring us together, who likes people, who cherishes the individual.

By the close of the Republican Convention, I was furious, and worried.  Then came the Democratic Convention. clintonkaineconvention

I watched, and I listened.  The difference between the two candidates was startling. Contrasting the ersatz glam and glitz of Trump’s “reality game show” convention, Hillary’s convention was real life. She is proven, tried, and true.

Hillary has demonstrated a life-long commitment to helping people.  Real people—not those on a reality show, but the people of everyday life. And she has experience turning these ideals into real change.  Throughout her life she has worked for children, for women, for families.

And not just in the United States.  Her activism on behalf of women and children across the world is renowned. She has always fought for and achieved help for people who need help.   She articulates everything I have always believed in and have worked for as a teacher.

I had to help.  I had no idea what I could do, or where I could go, but I just had to get involved.  I googled “Hillary for President,” and I found a local phone number.  Lauren Beth Gash, the Founding Chair of Tenth Dems, answered the phone.

I asked, “How can I help?”

She said, “Come on over.”

I thought, “Now?”

Of course she meant now, and of course I went.

As I entered the office, I saw a wall festooned with posters and stickers from a multitude of elections.  The room was buzzing with the energy of people planning, talking on phones, peering at computer screens.  I was welcomed and offered cake. The frenzy provoked warm memories.  I had not worked in a Democratic office since high school. My eyes lingered on a photograph of President Kennedy and another of Bobby; they were beckoning to me. I smiled back. I was where I belonged.

We decided I would do well on the phones.  Knowing how important every single vote for Hillary is, I brushed aside my initial nervousness and could not believe when they told me the office was closing, that five hours had gone by. I was so involved…I was actually talking to other voters. I had wonderful conversations with real people with real feelings about real issues. clintonconventonWe need a President who can bring people together.  Hillary does just that.  I had always believed that, and now I was on her team, because that’s just what I did that day—I connected to people I had never met both on the phone and in the office. She brought us together.

I came home smiling, knowing that this time I was involved.  I was working for what I truly believed in.  I could make a difference.

Remember that spot above my heart that my Kennedy button occupied? Well, I’m once again pinned! This time it is Hillary who is by my heart and in my heart.

I can’t wait to get back to work.

Congress Watch: Double Talk Dold Votes in Favor of Anti-Choice Legislation

Capture Congress Watch

By Laurence D. Schiller

In the last days before the Republican Congress left Washington in late July for its extended summer vacation, while most Americans’ attention was on the Presidential race and the upcoming party conventions, the House passed the Conscience Protection Act of 2016, S. 304, along party lines.  And there was the 10th District’s Republican Congressman, Bob Dold, voting right along with his anti-choice party. cspanscreenshot-640x400jpg

It’s likely that Double Talk Dold thought that his constituents wouldn’t notice.  After all, what could be bad about a Conscience Protection Act? But those in the know are familiar with the Republican trick of papering over toxic legislation with an attractive name.

Certainly the progressive pro-choice community knew what was up.  In the days preceding the July 13 vote, more than 35 organizations wrote a letter urging a “no” vote on this bill.  The opposition included prominent women’s rights groups like the National Organization for Women, the Women’s Law Center, and the American Association of University Women; medical professional groups like Physicians for Reproductive Health, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals; and, of course, prominent reproductive rights advocacy groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.  And President Obama has promised to veto the bill, should it come to his desk.

Of course, just as important as who opposed the legislation is why they so strongly urged a “no” vote.

“The Conscience Protection Act would allow employers, insurance companies, and hospitals to discriminate against women seeking reproductive health care, seriously undermining women’s ability to obtain safe, legal abortion care,” the letter opposing the bill began.  (emphasis added)

And the letter continued with this dire warning: “The Act would not only interfere with a woman’s ability to access comprehensive health insurance coverage that enables her to make personal medical decisions with those she trusts, but it would also put a woman’s health at serious risk in emergency situations.” (emphasis added)

Despite the strong opposition from the medical, civil rights, women’s rights, and human rights communities, the leader of Dold’s caucus, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, brought this anti-choice bill to the floor on the last day before the summer recess.  And he did so rather than allow consideration of such pressing legislation as a bill to fund Zika research or to curb gun violence.

With more than 100 members of the Republican House caucus on record as co-sponsors, the bill passed on an essentially straight party-line vote.  While Democrats overwhelmingly voted against the bill, all but one Republican Congressman voted for it.

The lone Republican who voted “no” was not Bob Dold.  Despite his supposed pro-choice stance, Double Talk Dold did not break with his party.  Instead, when the time came to show where he stands on women’s reproductive rights, Dold voted “yes” to dangerous restrictions on a woman’s right to access safe, legal abortion care.  And his “yes” vote put him in alignment with such anti-choice groups as the National Right to Life and the Family Research Council—whose other primary mission is to outlaw same-sex marriage.

When Dold is in the 10th District, he may try to run away from the Republican brand, but when he casts his vote on the House floor, he can almost always be depended upon to support Republican orthodoxy.  From his vote for Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House to his most recent vote against women’s reproductive rights, Dold has demonstrated time and again that he is a loyal Republican who puts party ahead of the desires of his constituents—which shouldn’t be surprising, given Dold’s long career as a Republican operative.

Brad Schneider does more than claim he is pro-choice; he acts on those convictions.  When Brad represented the 10th District, he consistently voted to protect women’s reproductive rights.  It’s time to send Brad Schneider back to Congress and Double Talk Dold back to where he came from.

Governor Mike Pence: The Poster Child for Homophobia in America

PenceforGanBy Steven Gan  – A personal perspective

By the time you’re reading this, the Republican and Democratic Conventions will have come and gone and Trump’s campaign of insults, lies, and outrageous and outlandish remarks, assertions, and beliefs will be in full swing. But now he’s going to have a sidekick who will try to modulate Trump’s sewer mouth, joining those advisors who do their embarrassing best to get Trump to be more “presidential.”

I can’t say that I was surprised when Trump picked Governor Mike Pence of Indiana to be his running mate. When he called Ted Cruz “Lying Ted,” while holding up the Bible and proclaiming him to be a religious hypocrite, Trump alienated Evangelicals throughout the country.

This was a real problem for Trump.  Most religious conservatives revere Cruz. In addition, many suspect that Trump is just not a real conservative.

So who is Mike Pence?  He was suddenly in the national spotlight in April, 2015, when he signed Indiana’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in Indianapolis. Although legislation with the same name was originally passed on the federal level under President Bill Clinton, and a version of it was even passed in Illinois with the support of then-Senator Barack Obama, additional legislation at the federal and Illinois State levels was also passed to make it clear that no business that sells to the public could discriminate against anyone based upon sexual orientation or sexual identity. This was not the case with Indiana’s RFRA.

But the fact that the country has overwhelmingly changed its understanding and acceptance of LGBT Americans means that any legislation that has the potential to undermine the rights of LGBT Americans is now recognized as being discriminatory.

So just after Governor Pence signed Indiana’s RFRA bill—in relative secrecy, surrounded by a bunch of conservative religious men and women and some anti-LGBT activists—he got a swift kick in the derriere when many corporate and political leaders threatened to pull their business out of his state. This would have caused serious economic damage and earned Indiana the moniker “The State of Hate.” Furthermore, the inclusion of the RFRA into the Indiana Constitution would have made it possible for florists, wedding caterers, photographers, and anyone else who sells to the public at large to say to LGBT Americans, “Sorry, but my faith doesn’t allow me to recognize your same sex wedding or other gay ceremonies. You’ll have to go somewhere else.”

From Pence’s twisted perspective, this was all perfectly logical, since a person of sincerely held religious beliefs should be able to discriminate against those who they feel might be in violation of their religious doctrine. Fortunately, the blowback made Pence’s head spin, and an amendment to the RFRA was quickly signed into law to make sure that Hoosier LGBT Americans could get their flower arrangements, photos, cakes, gowns, liquor, bands, etc. from any vendor who provides their services generally.

Pence has had a long and illustrious career when it comes to his obsession with religious liberty as an excuse for opposition to gay rights. When running for Congress in 2000, Pence’s campaign website was full of homophobic gems like this: “Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexuals as a ‘discrete and insular minority’ entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities.”

The website also declared Pence’s support for gay conversion therapy, evinced the belief that organizations receiving HIV-treatment funds under the Ryan White Care Act “celebrate and encourage” HIV transmission, and demonstrated his conviction that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service.”

In Pence’s 12 years in Congress, he voted to define marriage as only between a man and a woman, opposed measures to block employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. In 2009, he opposed the expansion of hate crime definitions to include crimes motivated by sexual orientation because he claimed that it would have a “chilling effect” on religious expression. A year later, he told CNN that open LGBT military service amounts to “social experimentation.”

So here we have it. Trump picked Pence to shore up the Evangelical vote.  And rumor has it that Pence was willing to be Trump’s running mate because his reelection as Governor of Indiana was in doubt. So I say to Mike Pence:

Hopefully this will be your last year in any government office as your bigoted and discriminatory beliefs towards LGBT Americans have no place in a civilized, enlightened, inclusive, and rational society.

And shame on you, Donald Trump, for your willingness to exploit Pence’s homophobia to further your own ambitions.


Dold’s House and Kirk’s Senate Take a Seven-Week Vacation After Doing Nearly Nothing All Year

Capture Congress Watch

By Laurence D. Schiller

The news headlines are dramatic: Shootings in Orlando, Baton Rouge, Portland, and Dallas, coastlines from the Atlantic to the Gulf disappearing as ocean levels rise, towns in Louisiana and Alaska literally having to be abandoned for the same reason, the Zika virus spreading through the US, lead-poisoned water in Flint and in Chicago schools—and Congress takes a seven-week vacation.


Wait, what? Yes, the Senate and House have recessed until after Labor Day, having accomplished hardly anything. Republican 10th District Congressman Bob Dold’s good buddy, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), even recessed the House a day earlier than the Senate.  Just one month after Orlando, two weeks after a dramatic sit-in by Democratic (and only Democratic) lawmakers, and a week after Dallas, Ryan continued to refuse to hold a vote on a commonsense gun bill that would deny access to assault weapons to suspected terrorists.

Meanwhile, Illinois’ Republican Senator Mark Kirk’s friends in the Senate majority continue to refuse to do their constitutional job to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.  Judge Merrick Garland has been waiting for hearings for more than four months, which is unprecedented.  And the Republican Senate majority is playing politics with the need for funds to fight the Zika virus, adding to the Zika funding bill Tea Party-backed amendments that would defund Planned Parenthood and loosen Clean Water Act regulations.

This 114th Congress has been the most unproductive Congress since the American Civil War. Neither chamber managed to pass more than a handful of the 12 annual appropriations bills this year.  The new fiscal year begins October 1, and Congress won’t even be in session again until after Labor Day.

And those appropriations bill the Republican Congress did bring up for a vote were larded with dozens of amendments attacking women’s health, defunding Planned Parenthood, and trying to overturn President Obama’s executive orders or decisions by the Supreme Court. For example, the House recently attached the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015 to a Senate bill called the National Sea Grant Act (S. 764)—a bill that, needless to say, had nothing to do with women’s health. And the Republican-controlled Congress has managed to send to the President only a temporary bill funding the Federal Aviation Administration—the agency that oversees airline safety.

So what about Bob Dold and Mark Kirk? Dold claims—in press releases and TV interviews—to support legislation to curb gun violence. But when Democrats staged a sit-in to try to force the leadership of Dold’s party to move such legislation forward, Dold was nowhere to be found. He’s neither protested his party’s cozy relationship with the NRA nor influenced Republican leaders to heed the people’s overwhelming desire for action. In fact, since the June sit-in, Dold has joined fellow Republicans in no fewer than seven party-line votes that prevented gun safety legislation from coming to the floor. CW2

On the Senate side, despite Mark Kirk’s very public meeting with Judge Garland, Republican Senate leadership stubbornly refuses even to hold hearings on the nominee.

 Dold and Kirk have tried to distance themselves from their party’s deliberately ineffective do-nothing Congress. But they have neither renounced that party nor moved it back toward the center. As longtime members of the Republican Party, which controls both houses of this deplorable Congress, neither Dold nor Kirk can duck responsibility for Congress’ failures.

Dold and Kirk excel at PR, but they’re failures when it comes to governing.  Why would the voters of the 10th District send either one of them back to Washington next year for more of the same?