Rep. Danny Davis (D)
Illinois 7th District
An airplane passenger on a cloudless day can get a clear view of the biggest man-made cityscape between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans: Chicago’s Loop. Its high-rises and parks along Lake Michigan were pioneered a century ago, and the downtown district was named in 1897 for the quadrilateral shape the elevated train forms around the city’s center. International School modernists built their most impressive collection of buildings here and along Lake Shore Drive in the years after World War II. In recent years, postmodernists have reinvented the skyscraper. The Loop now spreads beyond the elevated train, or the “El” as it’s known locally. It reaches west beyond the financial exchanges to the 110-story Sears Tower—the third tallest building in the world—situated near the Chicago River. The Loop reaches north and stops at the Gold Coast, the wondrous shopping district along North Michigan Avenue. West of the Gold Coast is the River North neighborhood, which has become one of the city’s most vibrant. This is the face Chicago likes to present to the world: giant structures rising where the prairies meet the inland sea, a vast concentration of brains and muscle, the nerve center of the nation’s commodities markets.
2008 Presidential Vote
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Behind the lakefront are the muscle and sinew, gristle and fat of the city. There are parts that do not work so well: Houses and apartment buildings are abandoned, commercial space stands empty and vandalized, and public housing projects are crime racked. (Although Mayor Richard M. Daley has been systematically tearing down old housing projects, such as the Robert Taylor Homes, built by his famous mayor father in a failed experiment to concentrate the poor in a few locations.) The West Side of Chicago, the vast acres directly west of the Loop, for years was a grimy and dangerous slum, with some areas almost completely abandoned. The decay spread west to the Austin neighborhood, almost to the city border with upper-income and racially integrated Oak Park. Many factories that made Chicago the chocolate and candy center of the nation were shuttered, and production went mostly overseas. In the 1990s, there was some revival. The United Center, the erstwhile home court of Michael Jordan, sparked commercial development of the West Side, and lower crime rates raised land values. Former meatpacking buildings have been turned into art galleries. A massive new downtown dormitory houses students from nearby DePaul University, Roosevelt University and Columbia College.
The 7th Congressional District of Illinois contains the Loop and most of the North Michigan corridor and the Near North Side, where the infamous Cabrini-Green housing project has been replaced by new, mixed-market housing. It goes south, past landmark museums, Soldier Field and 19th-century mansions along Prairie Avenue to take in a few South Side neighborhoods chronicled in the groundbreaking 1945 book Black Metropolis. Its heart, demographically and spiritually, is the predominately African-American West Side, which is more depopulated and socially disorganized than the predominately black South Side. To the west, just outside city limits, are Oak Park, the boyhood home of writer Ernest Hemingway and the location of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and museum and many of his prairie-style houses. There is also well-heeled River Forest; more modest Maywood, which is a black-majority suburb; and Broadview and Hillside. Just over half of the district are African-American.
Rep. Danny Davis (D)
Elected: 1996, 7th term.
Born: Sept. 6, 1941, Parkdale, AR .
Education: AR AM&N Col., B.A. 1961, Chicago St. U., M.S. 1968, Union Inst., Ph.D. 1977.
Family: Married (Vera); 2 children.
Elected office: Chicago city alderman, 1979–90; Cook Cnty. commissioner, 1990–96.
Professional Career: Teacher, Chicago Public Schls., 1962–69; Health Care Planner, 1969–79.
The congressman from the 7th District is Danny Davis, a Democrat first elected in 1996 after two unsuccessful tries in the 1980s. Davis grew up on a cotton farm in Arkansas, graduated from college in that state, then moved to Chicago and worked as a teacher, assistant principal and guidance counselor in Chicago public schools. For 10 years, he ran a community health project on the West Side. He was elected alderman in the 29th Ward in 1979, and supported Mayor Harold Washington, the city’s first black mayor, in his notorious 1980s battles with white machine aldermen that were dubbed “Council Wars.” In 1990, Davis was elected a Cook County commissioner and a year later, made a quixotic run for mayor against Richard M. Daley. In 1996, when Democratic Rep. Cardiss Collins retired after nearly 24 years in the House, Davis decided to run for the House again. His major opponents were 3rd Ward Alderman Dorothy Tillman, a Daley ally, and 37th Ward Alderman Ed Smith. Davis campaigned as a big-government liberal, calling for a $7.60 minimum wage, affirmative-action programs, and a nationalized health care plan. Davis won with 33%. He went on to win the general election with ease and has not faced a serious challenge since. But he lost his 29th Ward committeeman post to a Daley-backed challenger in 2000.
|Danny Davis (D)||235,343||(85%)||($413,001)|
|Steve Miller (R)||41,474||(15%)|
|Danny Davis (D)||129,865||(91%)|
|Robert Dallas (D)||12,629||(9%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (87%), 2004 (86%), 2002 (83%), 2000 (86%), 1998 (93%), 1996 (83%)
In the House, Davis has a liberal voting record, though he’s moved closer to the center on economic issues in recent years. He has opposed income tax cuts, even when advocated by Democratic President Clinton. He opposed the sugar program as corporate welfare (Chicago remains the nation’s leading candy manufacturer). On the Government Reform Committee, he was a champion of organized labor as he worked with a bipartisan coalition that in 2006 enacted major changes in the Postal Service. With his wife, Vera, who was then president of the West Side NAACP, Davis advocated a local program to increase the low share of black home ownership in his district by offering credit counseling and innovative forms of mortgage financing. He has created dozens of advisory task forces to get views from constituents. His devotion to issues affecting the poor won him respect even among Republicans during the dozen years of GOP control of Congress. With the view that everybody deserves a second chance, Davis has taken a deep interest in the problems of former convicts seeking to transition back to the mainstream. He and conservative Republican Rep. Mark Souder of Indiana proposed the Public Safety ex-Offender Self-Sufficiency Act, which used tax credits to encourage transitional housing and job training for former prisoners. This evolved into his Second Chance Act, which President Bush signed into law in April 2008.
Davis is eager for political advancement. In 2006, he sought to become Cook County Board president when incumbent John Stroger suffered a serious stroke. But Democratic committeemen overwhelmingly supported Stroger’s son, Todd, for the nomination, and Davis was a distant second. After the 2008 election, he campaigned publicly to win the support of Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. “I’m eager to run, and eager to serve,” he said, as he sought to rally support from ethnic groups in the city and from local officials across the state. Then Blagojevich was arrested and charged with trying to gain politically and personally from his power to make the appointment. The disgraced governor decided to go ahead and make the appointment anyway and called Davis his top choice. But Davis turned down what was bound to be viewed as a tainted appointment, saying the governor had “lost his moral authority.” Blagojevich then appointed former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to the seat, but the appointment continued to be mired in controversy through the first part of 2009. As a significant consolation prize, the Democratic House leadership gave Davis a seat on the Ways and Means Committee.