Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-7th) formally announced that he would be running for an 11th term during a press conference held at Sankofa Cultural Arts and Business Center, 5820 W. Chicago Ave., on his birthday, Sunday, Sept. 6.
The 74-year-old legislator seemed to preempt what could be a campaign issue heading into the 2016 campaign. Standing on his ever-present cane — a keepsake from his travels in Nairobi, Kenya — the congressman told a crowd of roughly 150 supporters that his age would be an asset.
“In some legislative bodies, seniority does make some difference. I am number 73 in the House of Representatives out of 435 representatives,” said Davis to hearty applause from a crowd of supporters flanking him.
“Our country and our world are in such dire straits right now, I’m totally convinced that we need as much seasoned leadership as we can get,” he said.
Davis’s first official campaign speech was heavy on statistics, with the congressman noting that his congressional district received more than $4.4 billion in federal dollars, nearly 10,000 federal contracts, more than 4,600 grants and more than 1,800 loans last year.
“We have also passed meaningful bills that impact the whole country,” said Davis, referencing what he considers his signature piece of legislation — the Second Chance Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007.
The law is designed to smooth the transition of convicted felons back into mainstream society by funding various prisoner reentry programs and providing job training opportunities, among other aspects of the law.
“But that’s not the only thing,” Davis said, adding that his office also helped pass “bills in education” and “child welfare.”
State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (4th), who joined the group of supporters standing in back of the legislator during Sunday’s press conference, said if it weren’t for Davis, Illinois wouldn’t have an affordable housing program designed to mitigate the state’s homeless problem.
Lightford was among a bevy of elected officials who showed up to support, if not explicitly endorse, Davis. Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough, state Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (8th), state Rep. Camille Lilly (78th) and Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown were among those in attendance.
Davis’ rousing re-election defense was dampened somewhat after a reporter asked about the congressman’s niece, Quinshaunta R. Golden, who pleaded guilty last year to theft, bribery and obstruction of justice in a $400,000 kickback scheme.
Golden, 46, was chief of staff to the Illinois Department of Public Health, which was headed at the time by Dr. Eric Whitaker, a close friend of President Barack Obama.
When asked whether or not he recommended Golden for the state position, some of Davis’ supporters began booing. Davis said his niece is “one of the smartest young women I’ve ever known in my life, so she didn’t need any recommendation from me to get a job.”
Davis, who has been in office since 1997, was re-elected in 2014 with 85 percent of the vote against Republican challenger Robert Bumpers.
There have been a host of other potential candidates rumored to be eyeing Davis’ seat if he opted not to seek reelection, but only two — Chicago police officer and former mayoral candidate Frederick Collins and Iraq War veteran, journalist and entrepreneur Thomas Day — have confirmed that they’ll challenge the popular politician in next year’s election.
Davis said he hopes the ticket on which he runs will be headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“We’ve got to do everything in our power to try to make sure we elect a Democrat to succeed Barack Obama,” he said, noting that he endorsed Clinton “a long time ago.”
This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Commissioner Richard Boykin was in attendance at the announcement. Austin Weekly News regrets this error.