Kouri Marshall never held a political office before – but he’s still running on his record.

That record including work for President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and work for former Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) and Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Marshall also touted his work in the nonprofit sector.  He serves as a director of state and local public policy for the Chamber of Progress, a trade organization for technology companies.

Marshall officially announced a run for U.S. Rep. Danny Davis’ 7th District congressional seat in August, and he argued that the fact that he was able to raise $68,258.84 as of Sept. 30, more than most other candidates in the race, speaks to his viability as a candidate. 

Marshall said that he plans to bring his political and professional experience to the office and to advocate for what have already been his priorities – to bring resources to poor and otherwise disadvantaged residents in both the city and suburban parts of the district, encourage technological innovation and advocate for issues affecting health, especially women’s health. Much of his past work involved building bridges, he said, and he plans work across the aisle to make sure his priorities come to fruition.

7th District congressional candidate Kouri Marshall | Credit: Provided

After working on the Obama campaign, he served as the executive director of Democratic GAIN, a membership association for politically progressive professionals. Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in 2016 inspired him to work for the government. He worked as Boykin’s chief of staff, and served as a deputy director of executive appointments and agency personnel at Pritzker’s office throughout much of the pandemic. In between the two jobs, he co-founded ChiGivesBack, a nonprofit that organizes fundraisers for other charitable programs, including meal delivery for seniors and toy drives.

Marshall said that running for office was a logical extension of everything he’s already been doing.

“I thought – what was the next step for me, and I thought the next step for me is to elevate my community, and chase after the things I believe would make my community better,” he said. “I think, as member of Congress, I would be able to do even more.”

Marshall said that he respected Davis’ decades of service – but his campaign was about the future.

I think it’s time for the congressman to pass the torch,” he said. “There’s a strong appetite for change, and if there had not been, I wouldn’t have put a hat in the ring.”

The 2022 primary election – which, in a heavily Democratic 7th District, tends to be tantamount to general election – saw Davis face his closest challenge in decades from Austin community activist Kina Collins. That, Marshall said, is another sign that there was an opening for him. While he said that he appreciated that Collins “shattered a glass ceiling” for Black girls, he believed that he could reach the voters she hasn’t been able to.

Chicago city treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin officially entered the race in mid-October after months of fundraising. She is currently facing allegations that she abused the power of her office – something she denied. Marshall said that, since none of the allegations have been proven, he would leave it to voters to make up their own minds.

“I can tell you, in terms of what I think about on a regular basis, it’s not my opponents – it’s the people who continue to struggle,” he added.

Marshall said that his major priority would be to support women’s health, whether it’s access to abortion and contraceptives or addressing the inequities in healthcare. He said that since his wife became pregnant, he became especially passionate about addressing disparities in material morality rates. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are more likely to die while pregnant and giving birth than white and Hispanic women.

“It’s alarming, to me, and that’s something where I want to advocate, not just my wife for all women [going through pregnancy and childbirth],” Marshall said. “I grew up with a strong mom, and I will say that once elected, I would be a fierce advocate for women, because my mom, my grandma and my aunts have been strong advocates for me.”

His other major priorities include supporting senior citizens, youth and teachers, and expanding affordable housing by supporting policies that would increase supply and by expanding Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers program. Marshall is also planning to work on a lingering issue disproportionately facing majority-Black communities in Chicago and the suburbs – the lack of access to fresh, healthy food.

Marshall said that, through it all, he plans to continue doing something that he’s already been doing – “building bridges.” For example, he said, as a Black man, he tends to get nervous when a police car passes him as he drivers – but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to improve community-police relationships by introducing officers to families living in “the impoverished part of our community.”

If elected, Marshall said that he would work with any U.S. representative who shares his priorities.

“I’m going to work across the aisle,” he said.  “I want to work with anyone in Congress who’s willing to work with me to help my community.”

According to FEC filings, Collins raised $49,819.41 and Conyears-Ervin raised $383,000 as of Sept. 30, which, Marshall argued, bodes well for his campaign.

“We’re exactly where we want to be, and ever closer in getting the seat,” he said. “If anything, I would actually add that my fundraising numbers demonstrate and say there’s a number of people [who don’t support other candidates]. I did it all based on strength and grit, and that’s the kind of Congressmember I’m going to be when I’m elected.”

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...