Congressman Danny K. Davis | FILE

While the Democratic primary is still nine months away, long-time incumbent U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (7th) is already facing two declared challengers, one challenger who hasn’t declared yet, and a perennial conservative candidate banking on the fact that nobody else will run in a Republican primary in the heavily Democratic district.

Austin activist Kina Collins, who ran against Davis twice in the Democratic primary, is challenging him again. She came much closer to winning the primary in 2022 than she did in 2020, and she believes that she can improve on those numbers. Pilsen teacher Nikhil Bhatia announced his intention to run in late June. And while Chicago city treasurer and former state representative Melissa Conyears-Ervin hasn’t officially announced her run, her congressional campaign committee has already raised $283,436. In an interview with this newspaper, Conyears-Ervin said she will announce her run in early fall.

Chad Koppie, a farmer from Elgin, ran for various local and state-wide offices over the years. Now he is running as a Republican after mounting an unsuccessful write-in campaign in 2022. According to his campaign, he wanted to take advantage of the fact that the district isn’t likely to get any other Republican candidates to campaign in both the primary and the general election. The primary will take place on March 19, 2024, and the general election will take place on Nov. 5, 2024.

The 7th congressional district includes most of Austin and North Lawndale and the entirety of West Garfield Park and East Garfield Park. The suburban portion includes all of Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park, Maywood, Bellwood, Broadview and Hillside, among other communities. Under the U.S. Constitution, a congressional candidate must live in the state where they are running, but they don’t have to live in the district – in fact, Bhatia and Koppie don’t.

Collins first ran against Davis in 2020, getting 13.8% of the vote in the Democratic primary. She did nearly three times as well in 2022, earning 45.6% of the vote.

Collins said she thought long and hard about whether she wanted to run again, but her supporters ultimately swayed her.

“My supporters, residents in the district [and] my donors thought it was a good idea for me to run again,” she said.

Collins believes her campaign can build off of her record and improve on her numbers.

“We’re offering something different to the district, and I think that our field game has expanded, and our support has expanded, and my face recognition and my name recognition has expanded,” she said.

In a July 11 campaign launch press conference, she got support from several Chicago aldermen both within and outside the district, though none of them represent the West Side. Collins endorsed Ald. Chris Taliaferro’s (29th) in this year’s runoff campaign against Davis-backed C.B. Johnson, but she said he hasn’t returned the favor yet.

“I would love his support and his endorsement,” Collins said. “Ald. Taliaferro is my constituent in this district, so I’m going to court his vote just like I’m going to court any other across the district.”

She also received endorsements from several members of the police district councils, including 15th police district council president Carmelita Earls and 11th District council member Alees Edwards. Edwards was one of the district council candidates Davis endorsed.

On the suburban side, Collins received endorsements from Oak Park village trustees Susan Buchanan, Ravi Parakkat, Lucia Robinson and Brian Straw.

“I think that elected [officials’] support that we have are elected officials who are overwhelmingly popular, they have big bases,” she said. “They made it clear that they were going to put their resources and their volunteers behind our campaign.”

Other candidates

Conyears-Ervin served as a state representative for the 10th District, which fell entirely within Chicago and included West and East Garfield Parks, from 2017 to 2019, when she was elected city treasurer in a three-way race. She ran unopposed in 2023. She is married to Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), who contributed a total of $3,000 to her congregational campaign through various campaign committees.

In April, she formed an exploratory committee to look at a run for Davis’ seat should the incumbent decide not to run. After Davis announced on June 10 that he would run again, Conyears-Ervin told the Chicago Sun-Times that she would pursue the seat anyway.

In an interview with this newspaper, she said she intends to officially launch her campaign in the early fall. Conyears-Ervin said that, as a life-long 7th District resident, she wanted to be “a new breath of fresh air.” While she said she would reveal a detailed campaign platform once she makes the official announcement, it will be built around the foundation of supporting working families. Conyears-Ervin reflected that she was raised by a single mother who benefitted from a supportive network of friends and neighbors.

“I’m born and raised in the district, and it is very personal for me,” she said. “I know the struggles of working families, and we need someone who’s going to be the bold leader, and that’s exactly what I plan to be.”

A press release announcing Bhatia’s campaign launch said he worked as a teacher for nine years and a principal for five years. He currently teaches at Gary Comer Middle School. a charter school in the South Side’s Grand Crossing neighborhood and serves as a parent representative on the Local School Council for Galileo Scholastic Academy which is in the Little Italy portion of the 7th District.

Bhatia said he was running to improve the education system and believed that Davis was no longer up to the task of representing his constituents.

“Unfortunately, Danny Davis is not getting the job done anymore,” he stated. “Our communities deserve a congressman that will work as hard as they do, stand up to corporate interests, and bring new ideas to Washington.”

According to federal disclosures, Bhatia received $55,324 in contributions as of June 30.