20-year-old candidate for Cook County’s 13th District pushes grassroots campaigning

By Elizabeth Beyer
Medill Reports

Bushra Amiwala was still in her teens when she announced her candidacy last March as one of three democratic contenders for the Cook County Board in the 13th District.

The DePaul University student, now 20, said people questioned her qualifications and background because of her age when she entered into the race. But the recent wave of first-time female candidates washed away the skeptics.

“The buzz and excitement around that is the wave I’ve been riding as well,” Amiwala said. Three-hundred and eighty signatures were needed to get her name on the ballot but she submitted 1,300 with the help of volunteer staffers.  The 13th district covers Chicago’s North Side and the northern suburbs.  

Amiwala attributes her campaign’s growing momentum to making the cover of Time’s January 29 edition along with 20 other first-time candidates from across the country as well as to the grassroots support from her community and organizations such as Run For Something. She attributed her motivation for running to a lifetime of working with non-profit organizations.

“Every cause I cared about had a political component to it as well,” Amiwala said. “I realized the only way to implement tangible, practical change is through public policy.”

Her campaign platform is focused on political transparency through live-streamed county board meetings, support of a means-based property tax system and advocacy for small businesses.

Incumbent Larry Suffredin, who has been in office since 2002, is confident he’ll maintain his position and cited his policy record as well as numerous endorsements from organizations such as Chicago NOW and the Chicago Teacher’s Union among others.

“The most important thing for everybody is to get out and vote,” Suffredin said, “This is an important election and we need to do things to change what’s going on”

Photo at top: Bushra Amiwala welcoming supporters. She was still in her teens when she announced her candidacy last March, one of three democratic contenders for the Cook County Board’s North Side and north suburban 13th District.(Elizabeth Beyer/Medill)