It will be a two-person race in the 7th Congressional District Democratic Primary in March.
Longtime incumbent Danny Davis will face a single challenger - a Maywood pastor and former suburban police officer on March 20. No Republicans have yet to file for the race. Davis and Jacques Conway, a resident of River Forest, have filled for the Democratic Primary. Conway, 49, is pastor of Neighborhood United Methodist Church in Maywood and is a retired Oak Park police officer. He's also served on the park board and high school board in Oak Park.
"I want to see, can an ordinary person get to Washington? That's the big test," Conway said in a recent interview. "No money, no political backing, just grassroots, middle-class people from Englewood to the Gold Coast to downtown to the western suburbs - these people who feel they currently don't have a voice for what's ailing them in this society. I'm hoping to be that voice if the public sees fit to elect me."
A married father of three, Conway was an Oak Park cop for 22 years before retiring in 2006 as the first black officer in that village to reach retirement with full pension. He resigned from his school board seat at Oak Park and River Forest High School over the summer and currently works at Teamwork Englewood, a South Side youth nonprofit organization he helped start. Conway has also worked as a high school basketball coach, a school resource officer through the Oak Park Police Department, and as a banker with Park National Bank.
Conway, a South Side native, said he's always had an itch to pursue politics at a higher level and thought now was the right time. The relative political unknown faces a tall test in the 7th Dist., which includes the western suburbs, West and North Sides, and greater Downtown.
Davis, 70, has served the 7th Dist. since 1996, replacing the legendary Cardiss Collins, who retired from her seat. Davis' campaign committee has so far raised nearly $90,000, according to opensecrets.org, a watchdog campaign disclosure website. There was speculation that Davis might not run again after recently flirted with running for Cook County board president and mayor of Chicago. But in a phone interview last Friday, Davis called that speculation mistaken.
"I'd have to find a reason not to run, and I certainly haven't found any," he said, later adding, "I think people make serious mistakes when they speculate."
Davis, who lives in Austin, said he's proud of his service thus far in Congress, including sponsoring a bill to help ex-convicts get a second chance in life. The congressman said his work feels unfinished, including his efforts to pass an anti-bullying bill that he sponsored, requiring states to track data on the prevalence of bullying and harassment at schools.
Congress has been hammered in recent public polls, including an all-time low approval rating of 9 percent, in a survey conducted by the New York Times and CBS in October. But Davis isn't worried about the public's disdain of Congress affecting his reelection chances, insisting the Republican alternative is not a viable option.
Conway resigned from the high school board in May, two years into his second term. At the time, he said he wanted to focus on his executive directorship position at Teamwork Englewood. The other reason was a still-ongoing legal battle against U.S. Bank, the owners of the former Park National Bank. The institution laid him off in 2010 after it took over Oak Park-based Park National. It then looked to take away several properties Conway and his wife owned, including his home in River Forest. Conway said he's still trying to resolve that real estate dispute.
Since leaving U.S. Bank, he's been working on a temporary basis as head of Teamwork Englewood until the organization can hire a new executive director later this year.