Robert Peters, Illinois Senate 13th District Democratic candidate profile

His top priorities include affordable housing, a transition to clean energy and an elected school board in Chicago.

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State Sen. Robert Peters last year.

Robert Peters, Illinois Senate 13th District Democratic primary candidate and incumbent.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

Candidate profile

Robert Peters

Running for:IL State Senate 13th District

Political/civic background: I’ve organized and worked in Chicago for the last 10 years. I first started out in politics when Toni Preckwinkle ran for Cook County Board President as the underdog. Then, my dad passed away, which pushed me into a deep depression and I left politics to work at Groupon. During that time, I became progressively angrier and angrier with the status quo, so I decided to go back to organizing and was hired Chicago Votes. After that, I was hired to work as The Political Director for Reclaim Chicago and The People’s Lobby. I took a leave from there to work as Political Director on Daniel Biss’s Gubernatorial race. I returned to work for Reclaim Chicago and organized our 2019 slate and earned my appointment in January of 2019.

Occupation: State Senator - IL 13th District

Education: I attended Kansas State University from 2004 to 2009, working various jobs throughout that time. I ended up leaving the university while still one credit hour away from a degree because the demands of my job increased and I needed to focus full-time on that effort. The value of higher education is substantial, but it is out of reach for far too many people. I’m eager to continue working to remove the roadblocks that prevent people from graduating from college or attending in the first place.

Campaign website:

Facebook: Robert Peters for Senate

Twitter: @Robertjpeters

Instagram: @Robertjamespeters

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The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent candidates for the Illinois Senate a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois and their districts. Robert Peters submitted the following responses:

Please tell us about your civic work in the last two years, whether it’s legislation you have sponsored or work you have done in other ways to improve your community. 

During my first term in office, I championed and passed 13 bills. I spent this year focusing on bills that address criminal justice reform and improving DCFS, to name a few. I’m especially proud of a bill that bans private, immigration detention centers in Illinois.

Before becoming a State Senator, I worked with progressive organizations to pass legislation such as automatic voter registration, bail reform and increasing the minimum wage in Cook County. As Political Director for Reclaim Chicago, I worked with our team to recruit and train everyday folks to run for office and run campaigns.

Please list three concerns that are specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to an important local issue that should be revised. 

1. Ensuring safety and justice for all by building affordable housing, bringing good-paying, union jobs to our community and ensuring that our youth are taken care of

2. Strengthening public schools

3. Strengthening labor unions through a just transition to clean energy

What are your other top legislative priorities? 

1. Improving DCFS

2. Winning real safety and justice for all

3. Elected Representative School Board

4. Greater access to affordable housing

What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain. 

I’m a proud supporter of a graduated Income tax. I voted for it and fought for it as an organizer. And I’ll work to ensure that we win it.

Illinois continues to struggle financially, with a backlog of unpaid bills that tops $6 billion. In addition to a progressive state income tax — or in lieu of such a tax — what should the state do to pay its bills, meet its pension obligations and fund core services such as higher education? 

After years of austerity and backlash against regressive taxes, I think we need to look at closing the most egregious corporate tax loopholes along with other progressive revenues options.

Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is? 


What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools? 

1. We need an elected representative school board

2. Ensure that the school funding formula moves money to our schools most in need

3. Massive reinvestment into public schools

Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois? 

When I speak to people on the doors I always ask them, “do you feel safer than you did 20-30 years ago?” Without fail they answer, “no.” The way we’ve been treating violence by focusing on the individual level has not worked. We need to look at bringing real safety and justice to our communities.

I’m committed to:

1. Advocating on a national level to repeal PLCAA to hold gun manufacturers accountable for profiting off of the murders of black and brown kids.

2. Fixing the FOID, so that we can start to address mass shootings

3. Fighting for public investments in the neighborhoods that are most impacted by gun violence.

4. We need to address the trauma that years of violence has done to Chicago’s Children, by putting a social worker and nurse in every school to help kids process and heal from their experiences in the immediate.

Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain. 

I support term limits for leadership.

Everybody says gerrymandering is bad, but the party in power in every state — Democrats in Illinois — resist doing anything about it. Or do we have that wrong? What should be done? 

I’m open to having a conversation about gerrymandering, but it has to include a conversation about prison gerrymandering. And, we have a deep problem with money in politics, which intersects with this issue. I was proud to have run a campaign at the city level to get big money out of politics as Political Director with Reclaim Chicago.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago is investigating possible official corruption by state and local officials. This prompted the Legislature to pass an ethics reform measure to amend the Lobbyist Registration Act (SB 1639). It was signed into law in December. What’s your take on this and what more should be done? 

I voted for SB1639. This is a good first step, but we have to go even further. Corruption in politics is a huge problem. It undermines the role of public service, government and our ability to get the job done for our constituents. We need to root out special interests in government, especially conflicts of interest. In order for us to restore the government, we have to restore the people’s faith in government. I am proud to say that I am a full-time State Senator and do not make a profit off of any other job. My role is to serve my constituents and organize alongside them for a better Illinois.

When people use the internet and wireless devices, companies collect data about us. Oftentimes, the information is sold to other companies, which can use it to track our movements or invade our privacy in other ways. When companies share this data, we also face a greater risk of identity theft. What should the Legislature do, if anything? 

I think it is wrong and we have to do something about it. We’ve become too comfortable with Big Tech companies selling our data to whomever they want.

The number of Illinois public high school graduates who enroll in out-of-state universities continues to climb. What can Illinois do to make its state universities more attractive to Illinois high school students? 

We need to reinvest in our directional schools, reduce the cost of in-state tuition and ensure folks come out of college with careers built for a 21st Century economy in Illinois.

What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment? 

Pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act and create sustainable, union jobs.

What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain. 

Harold Washington. This quote about Harold Washington from an In These Times article sums up why: “Washington’s initial election occurred in 1983, when progressive forces were mired in the gloom of the Reagan administration. He found mayoral success using a formula that was part campaign and part crusade. But Washington was no political neophyte, full of naïve idealism. He had already served many years as a state legislator and a member of Congress and was well versed in the nuts and bolts of pragmatic politics.”

What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why? 

High Maintenance

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