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Name: Sarah Gad
Occupation: Third-year law student at the University of Chicago Law School; nonprofit executive; founder of Addiction 2 Action and Jacket Change
Prior political experience: Legislative affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance; Law School Democrats; American Constitution Society
Why are you running for U.S. Congress in the 1st District of Illinois?
I joined this race because our district needs a voice. We are overtaxed, overworked and underpaid. Our school-to-prison pipeline is too wide, and room for upward mobility is too narrow. We top national lists for gun violence, black unemployment, police brutality, toxic air pollution, poor quality of life, and worst cities to live and drive in. In the face of these challenges, bold, progressive and aggressive leadership is critical. I’m prepared to be that leader.
What makes you the best candidate for this position?
I have been personally affected by many of the most pressing issues affecting our district. I have experienced addiction, incarceration, lack of healthcare, unemployment and the financial burdens of pursuing higher education. I fought my way back from rock bottom to be a voice for people who feel like they don’t have one. Since then, I have not stopped fighting for my community, including by founding two successful Chicago-based nonprofits. I believe that a U.S. Representative’s job is to echo the voices of her constituents, be a constant advocate who acts on pressing issues and retains strong attachment to the people that they serve. Unlike most politicians, I’m motivated by personal loss, not gain, so I will never sell out my constituents.
What are the Top 3 issues you see facing the district, and what would you do to solve them?
Financial inequality, gun violence and mental illness, all of which are all inextricably linked. Financial equality in our district requires rectifying economic imbalances resulting from slavery and Jim Crow. Reparations — especially when combined with measures to reduce black unemployment and combat discriminatory practices in the home-ownership market — would better enable communities of color to build social wealth and equality. Enforcing race-neutral standards for law enforcement and eliminating criminal records are also essential for achieving financial equality, as these steps reduce the barriers to employment many in the 1st District face.
There is an intimate relationship between violence and lack of opportunity. Reducing financial inequality and eliminating discrimination based on criminal records would also reduce the South Side gun violence epidemic, which is a manifestation of poverty, residential segregation and trauma. By allowing people to leave the system and rebuild their life without onerous impediments, they are far less likely to reoffend.
Expanding access to mental health treatment is necessary to address both the South Side gun violence crisis and Chicago mental health crisis. Untreated mental illness has turned the Cook County Jail into the largest mental health provider in the country. Mental health crisis calls and opioid overdoses have overwhelmed suburban law enforcement agencies and fire departments. Treatment for mental illness is far more effective, economical and humane than criminalization. Of the many ways to expand access to mental health treatment, three stand out: (1) increase federal funding for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant and other treatment programs. (2) Provide people in need of treatment with vouchers redeemable for treatment services through the program of their choice. (3) Repeal provisions of the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 that require physicians to obtain an X-license in order to treat patients who suffer from opioid dependency.