Davis, Conway make final push

Longtime incumbent favored in 7th congressional district race

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By MARTY STEMPNIAK

Stay the course or hit the reset button.

That's the choice for residents in Illinois 7th congressional district as its two challengers head toward the finish line in the March 20, Primary.

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis appears to be the favorite again in his seventh reelection bid, facing newcomer Jacques Conway, a Maywood pastor and former suburban cop. The two men are campaigning down the stretch in the final weeks leading up to the election.

Conway, a River Forest resident and former Oak Park police officer, is making his first run at a national office. He's previously served on Oak Park's high school board and park board. The 49-year-old is looking to unseat Austin resident Danny Davis, 70, who has held his post since 1997.

Conway faces a tall test, as he's considered a heavy underdog. Davis has raised roughly $148,000 in this election cycle, and his campaign has about $260,000 in cash on hand, according to the Federal Election Commission. The commission lists no fundraising total for Conway. He estimates, however, raising a few thousand dollars last month.

In a recent interview with Austin Weekly News, Conway admitted that he'd likely vote similarly to Davis on many issues before Congress. The difference, he said, is their 20-year age gap, and his belief that he'll bring more energy to the job. Conway knocked Davis for his low attendance record in the House of Representatives, insisting he'll bring a different "flavor to the Kool-Aid."

"Politically, we're not that far at all, and most Democrats aren't," Conway said. "Voting-wise, there won't be a difference, but energy-wise and purpose-wise and want-to-do-it-wise, I think that I could make a splash."

In deciding to seek reelection, Davis told Austin Weekly News he's having "a lot of fun" and is doing meaningful work in Congress. Davis touts his bringing roughly $20 billion back to the district since 2000, everything from infrastructure projects, to health care programs and hospitals. That money, he insists, isn't "waste," even said he's a fan of earmarks.

"I'm not of the opinion that there is nearly the waste and inefficiency in government now that there used to be and that people kind of cry about," Davis said, confessing to be a fan of federal earmarks. "It would seem that every entity trying to get resources from the federal government swears to God that they don't have enough money to operate."

In recent years, Davis has run or considered running for mayor of Chicago and Cook County board president. But he said those flirtations weren't about being bored with Congress; rather, he wanted to be able to exert his influence on the selection of the eventual candidate.

"My purpose in politics is to develop power and influence, I don't make any bones about that, because if you're impotent, then you can't move nothing...You can't get things done," Davis said.

Conway maintained his focus is on education reform, along with crime and business development in the district. He currently works as head of Teamwork Englewood, a South Side nonprofit he helped found, which focuses on disadvantaged children.

"Education is primarily the big push," he said. "Our state and our country, we're just lagging behind so much in our educational system. There's such a disparity. When I leave River Forest and Oak Park and go to Englewood, it brings tears to my eyes to see the disparity in this country in this time."

He also previously worked at Park National Bank in Oak Park, before it was closed by federal regulators, and is pastor of Neighborhood United Methodist Church in Maywood.

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