A West Side resident and local businessman man will try to snatch the 8th District state representative seat from incumbent Calvin Giles in next year’s primary.

La Shawn K. Ford, owner of Ford Desired Real Estate, 5714 W. Division, formally announced Sunday that he will challenge Giles in the March 2006 Democratic Primary.

Surrounded by dozens of supporters, along with family and co-workers, Ford, 33, announced his candidacy at his West Side campaign headquarters, 5104 W. Chicago, which was the original location of his realty firm.

The Austin native said education and economic development for the 8th District, which covers the West Side and portions of Oak Park and Riverside, are among his top priorities. Ford also took a few swipes at Giles, who still has more than $140,000 worth of unpaid campaign fines owed to the state. Giles has failed to file state-required campaign financial disclosure reports to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

“I will be a representative who not only makes the laws but will follow the law,” said Ford, who called Giles a “do-nothing” legislator.

Giles has not returned calls to the media or to the board of elections.

Ford promised to increase funding for education and to work toward reducing class sizes. He talked about his days as a public school teacher at Bridge Elementary and the need for smaller classes.

He said there’s money at the state level to help pay for his programs.

Ford also targeted ex-offender recidivism, and providing services and jobs to non-violent ex-offenders.

For HIV/AIDS, Ford promised to seek additional funding at the state and federal level for intervention and testing for the district.

“It is estimated that 1 million people in American are living with HIV/AIDS; 40,000 people become infected with HIV every year, many living right here in the 8th District,” he said. “We need to increase funding for HIV and AIDS prevention and increase accessibility to rapid testing for people living with HIV and AIDS in the 8th District.”

Ford’s real estate company has made him one of Austin’s and the West Side’s most successful independent entrepreneurs. Ford is also no stranger to politics. He’s worked with the likes of U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis on housing and jobs initiatives. Ford said his background as a successful Realtor will benefit him in Springfield.

“I can negotiate with people down there, that’s for sure,” he said, “I can do that confidently for the people in the 8th District. In business, the majority of time your business helps other people, but in politics you can help a lot of people. My business has allowed me to develop a lot of wealth, but politics is a service. I don’t look at it as a step up or a step down. I look to it as a service.”

Ford is the first announced candidate looking to unseat Calvin Giles, who has been cited by the Illinois Board of Elections for failure to comply with state campaign disclosure laws. Giles, a seven-term state rep., has been fined a total of $144,000 dating back to 2000. He has yet to pay. Giles and other late-filing candidates listed by the state have until Jan. 31, 2006 to pay their outstanding fines or have their names removed from the March 21, 2006 primary ballot.

Ford said Giles’ troubles have negatively impacted the district.

“It’s just a disrespect for the system. It’s unnecessary,” Ford said. “If you ask most people in the district, many probably won’t know who he is because he’s never around.

“He’s been in there for 14 years. It’s not going to be easy. We need people to get the word out that there is a choice, and a better choice. I decided to run because I live in the district as well, and I can’t sit back idle and allow someone who’s representing me to do so in that way.”

Ford is life-long resident of Austin. He taught history at Bridge Elementary after receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Loyola University. Ford is single but has a daughter, Tia.

Ford’s campaign theme is “Building Bridges to Success.” He told supporters to help spread his message.

“As the saying goes, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself,” said Ford. “It is my desire to represent all of the people of the 8th District. I will be a true representative of the people?”visible, accessible, and one who builds bridges.”

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com