Ventura launches 2020 primary challenge, lists progressive priorities

On Saturday, Will County Board member Rachel Ventura, D-Joliet, officially launched her campaign to challenge U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, in the 2020 primary election.

Ventura emphasized a list of progressive policies on health care, the environment and immigration in an attempt to contrast herself with the incumbent.

“America does not need nor want transactional politics, nor pay-to-play politicians,” Ventura said. “We want our voices to be heard and represented.”

Ventura decried a “broken” political system and endorsed a $15 minimum wage indexed to inflation, the Green New Deal and comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. She also specifically criticized Foster for not supporting a Medicare-for-All health care system, and even said it was one of the reasons she thought to launch a primary challenge against him.

She quoted the progressive political commentator Nina Turner, saying "Any ole blue just won't do," as a rallying cry to oust Democratic lawmakers deemed too moderate for progressives. Ventura also touted her electoral and governmental record. She ran and won a seat on the Will County Board representing District 9 in 2018. She described her campaign as an uphill battle, during which she didn't even raise $20,000.

“When I first ran, I was told that the race was unwinnable,” Ventura said.

She was the top vote-getter in a three-way race for two seats. In 2017, she also ran unsuccessfully for one of three at-large seats on the Joliet City Council, along with 14 other candidates. During her time on the county board, she has worked with other officials to find an alternative water source for the residents of the Fairmont neighborhood in unincorporated Lockport Township. She also spearheaded the effort to persuade the county board to adopt the Greenest Region Compact, a framework for municipalities to create long-term sustainable energy plans.

Foster has represented the 11th Congressional District since 2013. He last faced a primary challenge in 2012 and has won reelection by double-digit margins in the past four general elections. His campaign has more than $3 million in the bank, according to the Federal Elections Commission website.

Ventura held two events Saturday, one in Joliet and another in Aurora. The district includes all or parts of Joliet, Aurora, Naperville, Bolingbrook, Plainfield, New Lenox and Shorewood.

The Illinois primary election is March 17, 2020.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.