Kina Collins

Austin native and gun control advocate Kina Collins is making a second bid for U.S. Congress, vying to represent the Illinois 7th Congressional District and unseat the longstanding incumbent Rep. Danny K. Davis.

“We are building a stronger coalition based off of the foundation that we laid in the previous election cycle,” Collins told Wednesday Journal.

She previously ran in 2020, coming in second to Davis with 13.8 percent of all votes during the March 17 Democratic primary. Davis, who has held the office since 1997, received 60 percent. Oak Park’s Anthony Clark received 12.95 percent of votes.

Davis was not immediately available for comment but filed his statement of candidacy for 2022 with the Federal Exchange Commission on May 17. Clark will not make his third bid for congress in 2022, but said he remains committed to addressing systemic oppression in society

“My days running for political office have ended,” Clark told Wednesday Journal. Clark was defeated in his April bid for a seat on the Oak Park village board.

Despite the well-documented difficulty of unseating an incumbent, the results of Collins’s exploratory committee have encouraged her to move forward with her congressional pursuit. 

 “People really are hungry for that change,” she said.

The daughter of two union workers, Collins was born and raised in the district and was a student of Chicago Public Schools. As a child, she witnessed the murder of a child outside her home, spurring her future as an advocate against gun violence.

Collins has made a name of herself in politics through her work with the non-profit Gun Violence Prevention Education Center and Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. Last February, she was invited to participate in a virtual violence prevention discussion hosted by U.S. Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice and White House Public Engagement Director and Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond.

Gun control, along with expanded healthcare and economic recovery, is one of Collins’s platform issues. 

“We see on the national level people talk about the city of Chicago and use it as a political punching bag, when they speak about gun violence and other issues,” she said.

“I want to win so that I could go to the halls of Congress and take on the gun lobby and take on the GOP when they spew these mistruths about the people who live in our neighborhoods.”

She is already familiar with creating legislation, having written the bill that created the Illinois Council on Women and Girls, an advisory committee to the governor and general assembly.

Collins is entering the 2022 congressional race with a more seasoned approach, leveraging the knowledge acquired during her first run to strengthen her current campaign.

“I learned that it’s not just a one-size-fits all. Even though we are a plurality African American district, there’s not going to be one demographic that helps us win the race,” Collins said.

The way to win is having a “rainbow coalition” of voters across the district backing the same candidate, according to Collins, who noted the inequality between neighborhoods in the district using the Oak Park and Austin communities as an example. 

“We need to make sure that we are courting and speaking to all voters in the district, and even some folks who haven’t participated in the past in primaries,” Collins said.

She has also learned the importance of having strong financial support when running against veteran elected officials who have the benefit of strong name recognition among constituents. 

“You got to be a strong fundraiser in order to keep up,” she said. 

Collins has already snagged the endorsements of several groups including Justice Democrats, the organization that backed Rep. Marie Newman’s campaign to represent the Illinois 3rd. Newman successfully unseated 15-year incumbent Dan Lipinski.

Women’s March IL, Illinois Youth Climate Movement, 14th Ward Independent Political Organization and Western Springs Indivisible have also given their support to Collins.

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