Dr. Jeffrey Leef, a River Forest radiologist who ran as the Republican challenger against U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th) in 2018, recently announced that he’s running for Congress again.
In an interview on Sunday, Leef said that he’s wiser to how local electoral politics operate in Democrat-heavy Cook County, which should help him as he maneuvers his way onto the ballot.
But even though Leef won’t be an entirely new entity in his second bid for Congress, he’ll still have to confront the novelty of running as a moderate in a party that’s currently helmed by Republican President Donald Trump.
“My approach is going to be the same,” said Leef. “I go along through these things honestly and put my views out there, but I’m not as naive now of all the things that can happen.”
On Nov. 8, 2016, Leef garnered around 16 percent of the vote in a head-to-head matchup against Davis, who has been in Congress for 20 years. But the high political drama happened during the Republican Primary race.
Leef said he decided to run for the House seat because he was frustrated that so many races were going uncontested. Since he made his decision after the primary contest, he had to get nominated by his party’s committeemen in order to run in the general against Davis.
Leef secured the required nomination and minimum petition signatures to appear on the ballot, but a former Republican Party committeeman objected to Leef’s candidacy. The ousted committeeman had been removed from his position after the Chicago GOP changed its bylaws to declare ineligible any committeeman who voted in Democratic primary races in the last eight years — a move that party leaders said was made in order to tamp down on Democratic interference in local Republican primary races.
The Chicago Board of Elections upheld the objection to Leef’s candidacy, which would have kicked him off the ballot; however, Leef filed, and eventually won, a federal lawsuit that allowed him to stay in the race.
“It was an eye-opener,” Leef said of the experience, “but thank God I came out of it. It gave me faith in the whole process. We live in a two-party system here and the average guy should be able to express his views, run and let the people speak. I ask for nothing more than that.”
Leef said that, despite his considerable opposition to some measures taken by Trump and Congressional Republicans, he still has faith in the basic decency of the American people and of the country’s institutions.
“I agree 100 percent that the Trump personality is like no other that has been in office and I’m not saying that in a positive way, but his personality, if nothing else, was no mystery to people in this country,” Leef said. “Sixty-million people voted for him and I’m not going to believe we exist in a country where there are 60 million racists, misogynists, Muslim- and Latino-hating people.”
Leef decried what he said is the tendency of many on the Left to caricature all Republicans based on the actions, and language, of far-right politicians and extreme right personalities, such as Trump.
But Leef also voiced frustration with Congressional Republicans, who he said, “completely let me down.”
“For seven years, the Republicans lied, saying that they had something that had already been drawn up and ready to go,” said Lee, a radiologist who said that he’ll soon be assuming the role of director of interventional radiology at the University of Chicago’s new South Side trauma center.
“All they were doing was using the fact that there are fatal flaws in the ACA and yelling about it,” he said. “They didn’t have anything solid to replace it with. But because the Republicans were incompetent with the issue doesn’t mean that that the ACA is good. There are some fatal flaws with ACA that need to be changed.”
Leef said that the country’s healthcare system should be more privatized and subject to more competition and choice — an approach that he said should also be taken in other sectors, such as education.
The physician pivoted to his left, however, when laying out his most ambitious campaign platform.
“I’m in favor of a universal salary that every American would be entitled to,” he said. “It would be a certain base salary, let’s say $40,000 or $30,000. You’ll have that money and use it make your own choices — whether you decide to spend it on school or healthcare. There has to be cheap, baseline catastrophic personal insurance. You can’t leave people without the means to pay for it. And the current plans are not affordable for the average person.”