With the race for his House seat more or less solidified, incumbent Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-7th) has gotten much more aggressive in defending his 19-year legislative record and in swatting away claims made by his two opponents — one of whom is fighting to stay on the ballot — that they can do better. The Democratic Primary election is on March 15.
Davis is running for his 10th term in Congress against Thomas Day, an Iraq War veteran and nonprofit professional from the North Side, and Frederick Collins, a former Chicago police officer, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor of the city last year. An objection to Collins’ petition signatures is still pending.
At a Jan. 22 fundraiser for Davis held at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios in the city’s North Lawndale community, the nine-term lawmaker touted the multiple bills he’s introduced that have become laws — such as his signature achievement, the Second Chance Act, which was signed into law in 2008.
“There are people who introduce legislation who have never had a bill passed in their life,” Davis said. “I have had several bills passed.”
The congressman added that those laws have translated into a lot of federal grant money and tax credits for hospitals, small businesses and social service organizations in his district. Davis said the laws indicate his deftness at advocating for issues and policies he believes will benefit his constituents.
“People in Congress legislate, we appropriate, and we investigate,” Davis said. “Those are the three things we’re supposed to do. I add the fourth, which is to advocate. That is to try and convince others who are part of the process that the things we’re recommending are things they ought to be supportive of.”
Although Davis is facing two challengers, the congressman focused his political points of attack toward Day, since Collins may not survive the objection mounted against his petition signatures.
Day, a former journalist and policy expert who has never held political office, told Austin Weekly News in an interview last year that he’d both continue Davis’ advocacy and enhance it through his private-sector experience.
Day co-founded The Bunker, “a nonprofit business community dedicated to supporting veteran entrepreneurs and veteran small business owners,” according to Day’s campaign website. “The Bunker serves more than 20 veteran-owned businesses in Chicago, and has launched affiliate locations in four additional cities.”
Davis, however, downplayed Day’s record and said the veteran’s lack of name recognition could work against his candidacy.
“I think he has a formidable task,” Davis said of Day’s prospects. “Elections are elections. You’ve got to be known. You’ve got to get around. People have to feel that they know who you are and what you’re likely to do, and they need to feel that you’re good at what you’re doing. I don’t consider that to be any kind of bragging rights, but I think that citizens of the Seventh Congressional District would say, in all likelihood, that I’ve done a credible job for them, and, hopefully, they will return me to office to keep doing that.”
In a recent interview, Day issued a blistering response to Davis’ criticisms of his ambitious campaign.
“This district has three times the unemployment as the national average. Congressman Davis hasn’t passed a single bill since George Bush was in the White House,” Day said. “He missed three times more votes than your average congressman. We can’t afford yet another term of this. We can’t afford another two years of this. I am presenting a comprehensive plan to grow jobs, particularly in manufacturing. Since July, I have met every day with residents of each and every neighborhood in this district.”
Day also touted his bona fides with the district’s business community, a sector of constituents he said Davis has largely ignored.
“There’s a lot of this district the congressman doesn’t know, particularly the business community that creates jobs,” Day said. “For example, take 1871. This is a startup community [housed in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart] where new-economy jobs will be emerging. We never saw Davis.”
Davis Oscar boycott support
Davis also addressed his recent headline-making comments to a Washington, D.C. newspaper. Last week, he told The Hill that he supports the boycott of the Academy Awards — an action that’s gained a slew of supporters since African-American Hollywood power couple Will and Jada Smith called for it earlier this month.
This is the second consecutive year that no black actors have been up for awards in the Oscars’ four major categories. Celebrities like Spike Lee and Rev. Al Sharpton have since joined the Smiths in calling for people to boycott attending or watching the Feb. 28 awards show. The Hill noted that Davis, however, was the first lawmaker to support the move.
At his Jan. 22 fundraiser, Davis — whose comments have gotten the attention of CNN, the Huffington Post and a slew of other national and local media outlets — said he was simply following the lead of the Smiths and other black industry insiders.
“Things happen where individuals are not totally judged by the content of their character, but based on the color of their skin,” Davis said. “And when people say we have not reached equal treatment, I agree.”
“I don’t spend a lot my time watching movies or going to the theater. I don’t even know who all got nominated or who didn’t, but I know that there are some people who find it hard to be purely objective and that some subjectivity creeps into [the process]. It’s very interesting that the Oscars’ board of directors have already admitted that they need to make some changes and they’ve done so.”