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About the Candidate
Name: Sarah Gad
DOB: April 9, 1987
Occupation: Third-year law student at the University of Chicago; Nonprofit Executive; Founder of Jacket Change and Addiction 2 Action
Political Experience: Legislative Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, Board Member of UChicago ACLU, Law School Democrats, American Constitutional Society
My name is Sarah Gad, and I am running for Congress in Illinois’ 1st District. I’m an activist, an educator, a scientist, a third year University of Chicago law student, and a former inmate at the Cook County Jail.
Law and politics were never part of the plan. In 2011, I was in a serious car accident that changed my life forever. I woke in a hospital with several broken bones and excruciating pain. My doctors prescribed opioids and the addictive potential was never discussed. I learned the hard way addiction can happen to anyone.
In two years, my addiction took me from a classroom at a top medical school to a cell in one of the worst jails in the country.
In 2013, I was arrested for writing a false prescription. Even though I was a nonviolent offender, I was placed in maximum security because of overcrowding. I was sexually assaulted, beaten, stabbed, denied medical care, all with the complicity of the correctional officers.
After jail, the punishment continued. The stigma of having been incarcerated became a barrier to employment, housing, and even respect. Even with a college degree I only found work at a convenience store making minimum wage. I could barely afford a roof over my head or basic living expenses, health care was out of the question.
The criminal justice system had a chilling effect on me. I came to realize that our system is extremely flawed and something needed to change.
That’s when law and politics became part of the plan.
I wanted to learn how to use law to change society for the better. To shape policies that ensure that those who harm us are held accountable, regardless of their uniform. To empower those who have made mistakes to move forward instead of left them behind.
We need powerful leadership now. The current Congressman has shown that he’s not up to the task. Bobby Rush has missed more votes than any other sitting Congressman. He has skipped 30% of all House votes between 2007-now. Every year, he rakes in hundreds of thousands of dollars in corporate donations while leaving his district without a voice.
I was nominated by my community to become that voice.
I am going to use my voice to fight for real criminal justice reform, public schools, ending gun violence, a livable minimum wage. I will support our teachers, protect our seniors and ensure that no one is left behind.
I envision an America that values education over throwing people in cages.
Where education and health care are basic rights and not commodities.
Where addiction is treated as public health issues than criminal ones.
My journey has prepared me to be Illinois’ next 1st District Democratic Congresswoman. My vision is a first district that is moving, doing, working, trying - a strong 1st District that is welcoming, forgiving, where everyone has a chance and a second one if they need it.
Why are you running?
I joined this race because our district needs a voice. We are overtaxed, overworked, and underpaid. Our school-to-prison pipeline is far too wide and room for upward mobility is far too narrow. We spend more money incarcerating single residential blocks than we do educating entire neighborhoods. The average life-expectancy in the South Side is 30 years shorter than in the North Side. We top national lists for gun violence, black unemployment, police brutality, toxic air pollution, poor quality of life, and most dangerous cities to live in.
In the face of such tremendous challenges, bold, aggressive leadership is critical. Our current Congressman has shown that he is not up to the task. Congressman Rush has missed a disproportionate number of House votes and hearings over the course of the last decade. Voting is the bare minimum. The 1st District deserves a representative who will act on pressing issues and fight for their interests, and I am prepared to lead that fight.
What is your vision for this office?
My vision is a new Congress that wakes up every day and fights for the American people, rather than its own partisan interests; where justice, democracy, and the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not for sale; where the welfare and wellbeing of the people are prioritized above corporate wealth and all else; where everyone has a chance, a voice, and a seat at the table, and the diversity of voices seated at the table reflect the diversity of the American people.
My vision for America is one where education is valued over throwing people in cages; where we invest in building bridges—not walls; where second chances are the norm, not the exception; where the disease of addiction is treated as a public health issue, not a crime; where education and healthcare are basic rights—not commodities; and where nobody is discriminated against on the basis of race, religion, gender, gender identity, disability, or immigration status—especially not at the hands of our government.
What do you think is the most pressing issue facing your constituents and how do you plan on addressing it?
Many of the pressing issues affecting our district—including gun violence, premature mortality, mental illness, and trauma—are traceable to financial inequality and extreme poverty. The South Side of Chicago in particular carries the highest black unemployment rate in the nation, and 70% of families live below the poverty line. Addressing financial inequality at the congressional level can and should happen through various means.
Baseline policies I will push for include expanding access to employment through a federal job guarantee, raising the minimum wage, ensuring equal pay, and expanding access to paid leave and universal child care. I will also work to eliminate barriers to employment, including lack of access to transportation and impediments like criminal records. Investing in mass transit and ameliorating the collateral consequences of criminal records would put jobs within reach of the people of the 1st Congressional District, and would yield a drastic improvement in financial equality and the economy.
I would also push for policies that promote wealth building in communities of color: expanding opportunities for entrepreneurship in South Side communities by protecting the Economic Development Administration and Minority Business Development Agency; improving access to banking; banning redlining, exclusionary zoning, and discriminatory practices in the home ownership market; and instituting a comprehensive set of rules to govern land installment contracts.
Finally, I would push for reparations to better enable South Side communities to build their own stable economic base, social wealth, and equity, and rectify the overall economic imbalances resulting from slavery and Jim Crow.