Davis faces two challengers in 7th District

OPRF teacher, South Loop insurance regulator are longshots

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By Bob Skolnik

Contributing Reporter

Two idealistic young candidates with little money and scant name recognition outside of Oak Park have filed nominating petitions to oppose longtime Congressman Danny Davis (D-Chicago) in the March 20, 2018, Democratic primary in the 7th Congressional District.

Oak Park and River Forest High School special education teacher and community activist Anthony Clark is one of the candidates. Clark, 35, also filed to run against Davis in the race for Democratic State Central Committeeman for the 7th District.

Clark said that he is running a grassroots, progressive campaign and that it's time for new leadership to address issues of systemic racism and oppression of people of color which still exist.

"We're also facing these issues because we've allowed current leadership to maintain status quo and to focus on party and career over people," Clark said. "And I feel to truly make systemic change, we need transformative leadership."

He said that Davis, 76, who was first elected to Congress in 1996, was a former Chicago alderman and has deep roots in independent black politics in Austin, is not a true progressive.

"I don't believe that he's truly progressive," Clark said. "I think that he's a status quo maintainer."

Clark, who grew up and lives in Oak Park, said he supports the legalization of cannabis while Davis does not, and that he will not accept contributions from political action committees while Davis does. Clark also supports free public college and Medicare for all.

Clark has been endorsed by an organization called Brand New Congress, which calls for replacing all incumbents, and Justice Democrats, a group that supports left-of-center Democrats.

"We're truly progressive," Clark said.

The other candidate who filed in the Democratic primary for the 7th Congressional District is 33-year-old Ahmed Salim.

Salim, a resident of the South Loop neighborhood, came to the Chicago area from Pakistan when he was 2-years-old. He graduated from Hinsdale Central High School, DePaul University and earned a law degree from Western Michigan University. Salim works as regulatory compliance officer for Presence Health.

Prior to working for Presence Health, Salim worked in northern California as a field representative for Congressman Jerry McNerrney, a Democrat.

Salim says that Davis has been in Congress for too long.

"You can't stay in office for 20 years and still feel like you can understand the problems of an everyday people," Salim said.

Salim said that, if elected, he would serve in Congress for no more than eight years. He says that he doesn't believe that people should make a career out of politics. But, Salim acknowledges that he is unlikely to win.

"I think a longshot is actually an understatement," Salim said of his chances.

Neither Clark nor Salim has raised much money.

As of Sept. 30, Salim had raised only $3,937, while Clark had raised nearly $28,000. However, Clark had spent about $23,000, leaving him with just $4,671.19, according to federal records.

Davis, on the other hand, had almost $277,000 in his campaign treasury while his campaign owed almost $59,000.

Despite the financial disparity, Davis's long record and name recognition outside of Oak Park, Clark says that he believes he can win the race.

"We really have a chance to win," said Clark whose campaign has two paid staff members. "Money is not everything. I think the message is getting out there. Of course, now that we're on the ballot we're definitely going to have to increase fundraising."

Clark said he plans to walk the length of the district, which ranges from Lake Michigan to the Tri-State tollway and includes substantial portions of the South Side of Chicago, to draw attention to his campaign.

"We're 100 percent individual grass roots donations," Clark said. "We're going to ramp up our donations, but it's not about that. It's about me working hard and it's about me connecting with constituents and my neighbors.

"I have no doubt in my mind that we're going to win this. This is a calling for me."

Neither Clark not Salim are quitting their day jobs for the campaign.

"I'm literally getting off work and heading out to door-knock," Clark said. "I'm hosting canvassing events every weekend."

Davis did not respond to a request for comment sent through his field office prior to deadline.

Reader Comments

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Leah Shapiro from Forest Park  

Posted: December 13th, 2017 1:08 PM

I understand why folks in 209 Together are upset with the Congressman's endorsement. I worked for 209 Together. I have disagreed with some endorsements in the past also. However, I respect him for his progressive votes in Congress and his stand on important issues. He is fighting a tough battle in this Congress. Some of those elected also have baggage which folks were open would not come out. Quality Early Childhood Education and Head Start as well as Mental Health have all been priorities for Danny and essential to the health and well being of High School students. It is not easy to catch up.

Michelle Andres Fitz-Henry  

Posted: December 12th, 2017 6:18 PM

When I saw the piece of garbage on my front porch picturing Congressman Davis campaigning for what had to be the worst school board in the state I knew it was the last time he got a vote from me. I wasn't the only one who thought that way. EVERY SINGLE person on the old board got ousted. I can only imaging why he would campaign for them given their horrible track record. I don't know who I will vote for but I sure know who I won't be voting for.

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: December 11th, 2017 6:33 PM

Leah Shapiro, that was very good what you shared with others who think the Congressman is just another politician. He tries to make differences where he can, and also knows how difficult it is to get the changes he would like. Great suggestion for Anthony Clark

Leah Shapiro from Forest Park  

Posted: December 11th, 2017 6:18 PM

I admire and respect Congressman Davis. His district is diverse and many companies have left the area leaving the West Side stranded. Danny began as an EDUCATOR, HEALTH PLAN ADMINISTRATOR, COMMUNITY ORGANIZER AND CIVIL RIGHTS ADVOCATE on the West Side of Chicago. He has 6 honoree degrees. Before Danny became Congressman he served for 6 years on the Cook County Board and 11 years as a member of the Chicago City Council. His voting record is progressive and he is a ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee in these turbulent times. Every Christmas Eve I join with the Congressman and his folks to visit homeless and substance shelters on the West Side of Chicago as well as the IYC prison. The staff collects gifts and we sing carols. The Congressman gives an inspiring speech that is much appreciated. I don't always agree with the Congressman but that is okay. He is extremely charismatic and outgoing. I would like to suggest that the idealistic persons running for Congress begin at the beginning working themselves up and getting to know the district. I do not see any political experience on Mr. Clark's website. I respect him for the stands that he takes but he could learn a great deal by being mentored by Congressman Davis.

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: December 7th, 2017 8:30 PM

Danny Davis, tried to stop the invasion into the Middle East when Bush was president. Mr. Clark, still considers there is systemic racism and oppression of people of color which still exist. That is true for White people, too, because that did happened to me, when I was at an event in Austin. I was fortunate the 3 men blocking my path to exit didn't escalate their anger for me attending. If Mr. Clark, wants to change things, then it starts with education. He can teach at Austin high school and bring with him his own experiences that not all White people are racist. Mr. Salim has more political experience although not enough awareness to run a successful campaign

Rosalio Medina  

Posted: December 6th, 2017 12:48 PM

I have soft spot for teacher ,and I hope more teachers run political seat,Antony Clark is a passinonated young person ,and advocate for better educations ,equal treatment ,me as Latino I feel Antony is speaking my needs We need fresh blood in our political system ,Danny Davis ,still I have his dirty mail on my mailbox,curse he has a lot of money ,but is not going to win is.mu prediction my vote goes to Antony Clark .

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