RACE: U.S. House - District 1

About the Candidate

Name: Karin Norington-Reaves
DOB: Sept. 8, 1969
Occupation: Workforce development expert
Political Experience: I have not held elected office. Public service includes CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, U.S. Department of Justice, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, the Citizens Utility Board, the city of Chicago’s 20th Ward; Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Website: votekarin.com/
Twitter: @votekarin
Facebook: facebook.com/VoteKarin
Instagram: @votekarin

Candidate Statement

I’m Karin Norington-Reaves and I’m running for Congress because I believe the people of Illinois’ 1st Congressional District deserve a representative who not only understands the challenges of the community, but has a proven track record of creating real solutions to them. 

Working families face so many challenges today - from rising prices, the violence in our streets, and the persistence of poverty, to the unbelievable wealth gap between the haves and the have-nots. Many of our most important rights are under attack across this country from voting rights and the right for women to control our own bodies.

I’m a third-generation Chicagoan. I grew up here, went to CPS, and am raising my family in Chatham. I personally know what it’s like to struggle to put food on the table, to worry about an unaffordable medical bill, and worse yet to fear for my teenage son’s life every time he leaves the house. 

I’ve dedicated my life to positive change in our communities: from creating opportunities for people to tackling the systemic issues that have destabilized our communities from the city to the suburbs. Most recently, I took on corruption and transformed scandal-plagued bureaucratic agencies to create the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, the nation’s largest, and most extensive workforce development system. During my tenure over the past decade, we connected more than 100,000 people to quality, good-paying jobs - many of them union jobs. 

I know the best way to combat crime in our communities is to create economic opportunity and help people find good-paying jobs to break the cycle of poverty. This has been the work of my life. And it has earned me the support and endorsement of Congressman Bobby Rush. I know that in Congress, I can continue to make change for you.

My name is Karin Norington-Reaves and I’m asking for your vote. Please visit my website VoteKarin.com to learn more.

Thank you.

Candidate Q&A

Why are you running?

I’m running for Congress because there are so many challenges facing working families today: rising costs, the violence in our streets, the persistence of poverty, and the unbelievable wealth gap between the haves and the have nots. The citizens of the 1st Congressional District need someone with a demonstrated record of tackling these problems.

I’ve dedicated my life to addressing the systemic issues that have destabilized our communities from the city to the suburbs, and creating opportunities to make our community stronger. Whether as an educator (elementary school, English as a Second Language instructor, Adjunct Law Professor), attorney, advocate, workforce development leader, or single mom, I understand these issues on both a deeply personal and professional level.

Most recently, I took corrupt, scandal-plagued bureaucracies, and created the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, the nation’s largest and arguably most celebrated workforce development system. Under my leadership of The Partnership, my team and I connected more than 100,000 job seekers to meaningful, family-sustaining careers; partnered with 2000+ companies to create career pathways; collaborated with the philanthropic community to create and fund non government programs; all which brought more jobs and opportunities to Chicago and Cook County.

I also understand the best way to fight the crime plaguing our streets is to break the cycle of poverty by creating access to economic opportunity through workforce development and thus instilling hope. Where others may talk about increasing economic opportunity, creating jobs, and making systemic change that uplifts people and businesses, I’ve been doing this work with great results for the past 30 years.

That’s why Congressman Bobby Rush has endorsed me in our campaign to be the first Black woman to represent this district. I know I can continue to make a positive change for our communities and our nation in Congress.

What does this office do well, and what needs fixing?

Congressman Rush ably represented the people of this district with passion and dedication. One particularly impactful tool he utilized well was his convening power. He creatively approached problem solving by convening stakeholders and leaders from a variety of sectors to tackle challenges facing the community. I witnessed this first hand with the creation and impact of the Greater Chatham Initiative community planning process which eventually led to GCI the non-profit organization. That initial convening prompted me to marshall resources to create the Chatham Education and Workforce Center in response to the tragic shooting death of Dr. Betty Howard. The Center provides job training and placement service for job seekers, offers a Maker Lab and access to a full array of programs and resources.

Washington, however, is broken. Despite the constant shootings here in Chicago, Congress is unwilling to pass meaningful gun control measures to stop the violence. Despite the threats in states across the country, Congress has so far been unwilling to codify Roe v. Wade into law. Despite the threats to voting rights in states across the country, Congress has been unwilling to renew portions of the Voting Rights Act. We need people to stand up for our values, to be courageous. We have far too many millionaires who are out of touch with the needs of the people they are supposed to serve and frankly, just out for themselves. We need more people with lived experience, who understand the issues working families face and are willing to do the work to make real, meaningful change.

Far too many people also feel removed from the work and impact of their elected officials. Many don’t know who their representative is, while others are unaware of the accomplishments, policies, or impact of the work. Constituents need a deeper understanding of how their representative’s work touches and improves their lives. This can be accomplished through increased regular communication and transparency as well as innovative means of public engagement such as local community policy councils

What is the most pressing issue facing your constituents and how do you plan on addressing it?

Crime, and specifically gun violence, is robbing an entire generation of youth of their future. We must get illegal guns off the streets, require background checks for every purchase, and stop the proliferation of “ghost guns,”– guns that are sold in pieces off the internet or 3-D printed without a serial number. I also support banning civilians from possessing military-grade weapons. However, the reality is that public safety measures alone cannot eradicate violence.

Our communities have suffered from chronic disinvestment and a lack of opportunity, which creates violence. Many people still lack access to quality, good-paying jobs. We have to demand investment in our communities and make sure that federal resources are directed to our district. Those resources have to be combined with private and philanthropic sector collaborations to invest in our communities, improve infrastructure, and create jobs. This is how we create hope, end the cycle of poverty, and have safer communities as a result. This is the work I’ve been doing my whole life - and will continue in Congress.

What specific steps would you take to ensure your office is accessible and responsive to your constituents?

Elected officials must be accessible and responsive to their constituencies. While writing and voting on legislation is an important role, equally critical is the ability to help constituents navigate the challenges of our government, whether that’s helping a veteran get care from the VA; helping our elders resolve an issue with their Social Security checks; helping people access federal job training resources; or assisting students in navigating Pell grants and other federal programs to help them get an education.

I am committed to running an office that does all of this, and is inclusive, responsive, and representative of all the people of the 1st District. Specifically, I would ensure we: a) communicate with stakeholders and representatives of impacted populations before making drafting/voting decisions; b) regularly engage marginalized groups to ensure their experiences inform my decision-making; c) ensure constituents not only understand the role of Congress but through the creation of local policy council foster a deepened sense of investment and ownership; d) hire a diverse and capable staff representative of the intersectional identities of our constituents; and e) hold regular town hall/District meetings to listen to and engaged with the people of the 1st and understand their priorities/needs.