Cook County sheriff’s policy director seeks state House seat of outgoing majority leader

The first candidate to enter the race, Becky Levin grew up in Des Plaines and has lived in Uptown for the last 10 years, describing herself as a “proud” policy wonk and nerd. She has served as the executive director of public policy for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart since January 2020.

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Becky Levin, executive director of public policy for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Becky Levin, executive director of public policy for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, at a gun control group’s awards ceremony in 2018.

Provided

Cook County sheriff’s official Becky Levin plans to kick off her campaign to seek the Illinois House seat of outgoing Majority Leader Greg Harris on Thursday, calling herself “a crime fighter and a public health expert, who has a proven record of results.”

The first candidate to officially enter next year’s race to fill the North Side Democrat’s House seat, Levin grew up in northwest suburban Des Plaines and has lived in Uptown for the last 10 years, describing herself as a “proud” policy wonk and nerd.

After more than two decades in health care, she has served as the executive director of public policy for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart since January 2020. Levin pointed to her background and “breadth of experience” as the main reasons why she should succeed Harris.

“It just has never seemed more important to have additional public health expertise among our elected officials, and not just to bring this to an end — hopefully sooner rather than later — but also to rebuild in a more equitable way that helps keep these sorts of disparities from existing in the future,” Levin said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

While with the sheriff’s office, Levin has focused on efforts to decriminalize mental illness and poverty, connecting people to services and getting illegal guns off the streets.

During the pandemic, her position also included serving as the sheriff’s internal public health expert on trying to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among those in the jail and employees, according to her campaign bio.

Cook County Jail, 2700 S. California, in 2020.

Cook County Jail, 2700 S. California, in 2020.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Levin said she and others in the office did “everything we possibly could” to curb the spread of the virus.

“I’m the last person who will tell you that everything we did was perfect — I’m not sure that I believe that there’s a perfect, I think there’s always something more that can be done — but we did everything we possibly could,” Levin said. “I know that’s never going to be enough, nor should it be enough for the loved ones who lost people who were either incarcerated or worked for us.”

Before joining the sheriff’s office, Levin spent more than 12 years at the American Academy of Pediatrics leading initiatives to keep children safe and more than eight years at Lurie Children’s Hospital, where she founded, and led, the city’s largest violence prevention collaborative Strengthening Chicago’s Youth.

In a statement, Levin thanked Harris for his “years of dedicated service to our district and our state” and said she’s running to succeed him because “the General Assembly needs a crime fighter and a public health expert, who has a proven record of results.”

House Majority Leader Greg Harris speaks during a news conference last month.

House Majority Leader Greg Harris speaks during a news conference last month.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

She said she’s talked to the majority leader since he announced his plans to not seek reelection, though the two largely talked about Medicaid policy and not about whom he might support in the race.

Harris announced he would not seek reelection last month, ending a 15-year legislative career that saw him rise to the second most powerful position in the House.

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