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Kina Collins, 7th Congressional District Democratic candidate profile

Her top priorities include gun violence prevention, health care reform and criminal justice reform.

Kina Collins, 7th Congressional District Democratic primary candidate, 2020
Kina Collins, 7th Congressional District Democratic primary candidate
Provided photo

Candidate profile

Kina Collins

Running for: U.S. House of Representatives, Illinois 7th District

Political/civic background: Founder of Chicago Neighborhood Alliance, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.- Member, I Grow Chicago- Board Member Women’s March Illinois Chapter- Vice President

Occupation: Community Organizer, Public Health Advocate

Education: Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center, Louisiana State University

Campaign website: Kinaforcongress.com

Facebook: @KinaForCongress

Twitter: @Kina4Congress

Instagram: @Kina4congress/


The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing their districts, the state of Illinois and the country. Kina Collins submitted the following responses:

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

As a native of the Austin neighborhood I have a proven track record of policy making, coalition building, and working with communities to improve public health and safety.

As a national organizer for Physicians for a National Health Program, I have spoken out as a strong advocate for a single payer Medicare for All system in the U.S. I have successfully organized over 20,000 physicians and medical students from across the country, and continue to build momentum for this issue. In the summer of 2019 I organized a protest against the American Medical Association for their failure to support Medicare for All, and helped coordinate with National Nurses United, Students for a National Health Program (SNAHP), disability rights advocates, and members of the Jane Addams Senior Caucus.

In 2018, I traveled the state of Illinois to build a coalition of organizations in support of my first civil rights bill to be written and signed into state law. I listened to the perspective of hundreds of women in community focus groups across the state, which led to me co-authoring House Bill 5544 - The Illinois Council on Women and Girls Act. This landmark council ensures that state policy and programming prioritizes the needs of women and girls and is centered on the voices of women of color, including the transgender and non binary community. I wrote this legislation in direct response to the Trump administration eliminating an Obama era policy called the White House Council on Women and Girls.

I was one of the organizers who helped mobilize protests after the video of the Laquan McDonald shooting went public in Chicago, and has seen how social change can be achieved when communities come together to hold policymakers accountable. I am the founder of the Chicago Neighborhood Alliance, a community organization centered on empowering youth around the issues of gun violence prevention and civic engagement.

I served as a leader with Generation Progress, a progressive millennial think tank focused on criminal justice reform and eradicating gun violence. As part of this movement, I helped launch the Beyond the Gun campaign and was selected to participate in the National Leadership Council for the Fight4AFuture network, which connects young people from across the country to work on actions that address the root causes of violence, trauma, and inequity.

What are your views on the decision by the U.S. House to impeach President Donald Trump? Has the impeachment process been fair or not? How so? If, in your view, the president should not have been impeached, would you have supported censure? Please explain.

On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol, raised his right hand, and solemnly swore to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has not kept that promise.

Since that time we have seen his administration issue out unconstitutional executive orders, commit violations of the Emoluments Clauses, publicly lie thousands of times to the American public and utilize his office in abusive ways while committing obstruction of Congress. Furthermore, this administration has befriended global enemies to the United States and alienated our allies which has created great national security risk. I believe the impeachment hearing was fair and I believe that the decision to impeach was the correct decision.

By letting the illegal actions of the Trump administration to go uncheck any further would leave the door open for the continued violation to the law of the land, which is the United States Constitution.

How would you reduce the federal budget deficit, which now stands at about $1 trillion for 2020? What changes, if any, to the U.S. tax code do you support and why?

Members of the GOP in Congress have made it clear that they want to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, education and other federal programs that millions of Americans rely upon in order to “balance” the budget. But the facts have shown us that cutting important programs such as these will cost us more in the end.

I believe that the most vulnerable among us will be hurt by these cuts of public goods and ultimately that will hurt our country as a whole. Here are two ways I believe we can balance the budget and create jobs.

1.) We need to end tax breaks for big oil, gas, and coal companies and invest that money into a Green New Deal:

In 2011 the Washington Post reported that democratic U.S. Senators unveiled a plan to end tax breaks for five of the nation’s largest oil companies and they projected that this plan would save about $21 billion over the next decade. Other Studies have confirmed that by ending the tax breaks for big oil, gas, and coal companies we can reduce the budget by $113 billion over the next ten years. The facts stand that companies like Exxon Mobil, one of the most profitable companies in the world, do not need tax breaks. Million and billion dollar corporations should pay their fair share of taxes. We need to close the corporate loopholes once and for all.

This additional tax revenue can be utilized to invest in a green economy focused on trades, vocations, and industries designed to mitigate or remove the negative externalities of carbon emission. A pew research study showed that 60% of Americans say that climate change is already affecting their local community. It is my stance that we can close the gap on economic inequity and combat environmental injustice through the creation of high-quality union jobs in a green economy.

2.) Reduce unnecessary and wasteful spending at the Pentagon:

Our military spending consumes nearly half of our country’s discretionary budget. I believe that the Pentagon’s budget has been too large for far too long. In the 2019 federal budget $717 billion was allocated to defense. Here is what we could do with that $717 billion:

Medicare for all: As a country we should be investing in covering the 200 million children and adults who are uninsured and underinsured. We currently spend 17% of our country’s GDP into a healthcare system that produces worse healthcare outcomes than any other developed or industrialized country in the world. In the end, investing in a stronger healthcare system will help us save more and cost us less overall.

Free Public College: With the $717 billion being allocated to the military we could send 21 million students to college and cover their full tuition for four years at any public university. This will help us stunt the growth of the national student loan debt, that has now ballooned to $1.7 trillion. In order to tackle this massive amount of debt we will need to begin the process of decreasing the number of incoming college students taking out student loans. Free public college is the start.

Reduce Fossil Fuel Emissions: A 2014 study showed that the only way to slash carbon emissions is by taking aggressive action at the federal level. That will be costly. The estimated cost is set at $200 billion annually, I support allocating funding from our military budget and investing those funds in carbon reduction programs and solutions. I also support using funding from the military budget to strengthen and grow the EPA.

Food Assistance: The Trump administration has already begun their plan to cut nearly $24 billion over the next 10 years from food stamps and related assistance to the poor in our country. These cuts are harmful to the health and development of nearly 3 million children and adults who rely on food stamps and assistance. By shrinking the military budget by $2.4 billion dollars will help keep food stamps and sister programs in tact.

Upgraded Infrastructure: After the horrific damage done to the residents of Flint, Michigan it has sparked real conversations nationally about the lack of investment in infrastructure across the country. What we now know is that Flint is not the only place that has high levels of lead in their water. We need wide sweeping and comprehensive action plans and budgets to address our crumbling roads, underground piping, bridges, and public schools.

What changes would you like to see made to our nation’s healthcare system? Would you shore up the Affordable Care Act or work to repeal it in full? What’s your view on Medicare for All? And what should be done, if anything, to bring down the cost of prescription drugs.

I stand on the principle that healthcare is a fundamental human right. I believe that a single-payer Medicare for all system would bring us full and equitable access to quality healthcare for every resident in our country, including immigrants and undocumented people. The Illinois 7th has some of the greatest health disparities across the country, which is why unlike the current incumbent, I refuse to take any money from big pharmaceutical or private insurance companies. I support:

1) A single-payer, comprehensive system, free at the point of service

2) Coverage for all U.S. residents regardless of citizenship or documentation status

3) Coverage for reproductive healthcare, including abortion, all contraceptives, fertility support, prenatal and obstetric services, and postnatal support for new parents

4) Coverage of LGBTQIA+ people, including transition

Prior to running for public office I was the national organizer with Physicians for a National Health Program. I worked with over 20,000 physicians and medical students all across this country to improve health outcomes for demographics and minority groups that often get drowned out or silence in the national debate of healthcare coverage. These groups include gun violence survivors, rape survivors, women and children, members of the LGBTQIA+ community and working class families like mine. I will continue to lift up their voices in Congress and work alongside physicians and medical students to help improve our healthcare system.

I fully support H.R. 1384, the Medicare for All Act of 2019. Currently we are spending over 17% of our GDP on healthcare and we have some of the worse health outcomes of any developed country. When elected to Congress I will protect the current status of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if repeals are brought to a vote. But I know we can and must do better with cultivating the idea of healthcare being a human right. The pathway I see that being achieved is by fighting and supporting a single payer medicare for all system.

The system would be funded in part by the savings obtained from replacing today’s inefficient, profit-oriented, private insurance companies – and the system-wide administrative waste they generate – with a single streamlined, nonprofit public payer. Such savings, estimated in 2017 to be about $500 billion annually, would be redirected to patient care.

The Trump administration is awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court as to whether it can end the DACA program — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — which shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Do you support or oppose DACA and why? Should a path to citizenship be created for the so-called DREAMers? Please explain.

Immigrant families are living in a constant state of fear, and the physical and mental trauma is destroying the fabric of our society. We are not a great nation if we treat the people who come here looking for opportunity with such callousness and cruelty. Stoked by a US President fueled by white nationalism, immigrants are being targeted in violent attacks by extremists and at the same time are over policed and detained by a government that should be doing everything to protect them.

I support:

Defunding and the abolition of ICE and its partner agencies- When in Congress I will call on the Illinois Congressional Delegation to refuse to appropriate one more dollar to ICE. Recently, Congressman Davis voted on a spending bill that increased federal funding of ICE, CBP, and allocation of tax dollars for a border wall. I will vote no and refuse to give a single dollar to either.

Reallocation of ICE funds to humanitarian and social services- The $7.5 billion (and growing) allocated to ICE should be used to support the integration of immigrants and ensure that families have access to education, shelter, and basic needs. These funds should not be directed towards the expansion of detention, hiring of additional immigration law enforcement personnel, or the construction of border walls. Congressman Davis has voted yes to continue the funding of these actions.

Decriminalize migration- The human rights of all migrants must be respected, both on the border and throughout the country. I support the repeal of US code 1325, US code 1326, and the 3 and 10 year bars that designate undocumented entry into the country as a crime. The current Administration cites these as the specific laws that allow them to separate families at the border by designating migrants as criminals.

End mass detention and incarceration, including ending the for-profit prison system- 76% of all detention facilities are for-profit and gain from incarcerating people, especially people of color. Contracts with private prison and detention companies must be prohibited. Mandatory detention and detention quotas must be ended.

What are the three most important issues in your district on which the federal government can and should act?

Gun Violence Prevention - I have seen firsthand the mental, physical, and long-term health issues that friends and family have struggled with after a shooting. After witnessing a shooting in front of my house at the age of 7, I have made gun violence prevention a core component of my fight for social justice. Gun violence is a public health epidemic, particularly in the IL-07 district which contains some of the neighborhoods with the highest homicide rates in Chicago. In Congress, I will push for critical investments to be made in trauma-informed education, mental health services, and advocate for increases in flexible funding to support innovative solutions to gun violence in our local communities.

Health Care Reform and Medicare for All - Before deciding to run for office, I was a national organizer for Physicians for a National Health Program, advocating across the country for a single-payer Medicare for All system. Recent reports have shown that there are drastically lower life expectancy rates in some of the neighborhoods in IL-07, and large health care disparities from the richest to the poorest. Of the five worst hospitals in Illinois, three of them are in the district. The incumbent has failed to address the health concerns of his constituents, and this is a core pillar of my campaign. This is not just a policy or political issue, it is a moral issue that needs to be seriously addressed in Congress to prevent people from needlessly dying because they can’t afford their prescriptions and insurance co-payments.

Criminal Justice Reform and Police Accountability - The current criminal justice system targets communities of color, upholds institutional racism, and profits off of the mass incarceration of black and brown people. Along with other activists leaders, I have spoken out against state-sanctioned violence and led successful efforts to hold law enforcement officers accountable, as was seen in Chicago when Officer Van Dyke was found guilty of murdering Laquan McDonald. We see systemic failures at all levels of the justice system, especially locally - when the Chicago Police Department only has a homicide solve rate of 17 percent, the families and community members who live in high crime neighborhoods like Austin have no faith that the police will actually stop the shooters. The most important actions we can take to improve public safety for everyone in the district is to go beyond resistance and towards implementing solutions. I support policies and programs that improve community interactions in the district and ensure accountability at all levels of the justice system.

What is the biggest difference between you and your opponent(s)?

I am native of the Austin neighborhood with a proven track record of policy making, coalition building, and working with communities to improve public health and safety. My experience living in Austin makes me the only candidate in this race who deals with the everyday economic realities of marginalized communities all across the country. I have vowed to stay in the Austin community when I win because I believe those closest to the pain, should be closest to the power.

For over 20 years the interest of working families has been sold off to luxury real estate developers, big banks, and for profit healthcare corporations. And for 20 years our cost of living has risen, healthcare has become more expensive, and our incomes are staying the same. I am proud to run a campaign that will not accept a single penny from corporations. Instead I am running a campaign that champions and advances improved and expanded medicare for all, tuition free public college, and fighting for a future free of gun violence.

In a district that is over 85% Democrat, overwhelmingly working class, and nearly 70% people of color, Illinois 7th deserves a working class champion. I am an organizer, a public policy expert, a survivor of everyday gun violence, and a daughter of this district.

The Illinois 7th district is the most democratic district in all of Illinois and currently sits as the 5th most democratic district in the entire country. Our district should be serving as a national model on how to successfully advocate and push for comprehensive progressive agendas. Instead we currently hold the largest life expectancy gap in the country and are responsible for 28% of all gun violence in the state of Illinois.

I am the best candidate for this position because my campaign offers transparency, accountability to the voters, and the ability to push forth a true working class and equity agenda for the many, not just the wealthy few.

What action should Congress take, if any, to reduce gun violence?

Gun violence is a public health epidemic in our country, and I believe we need the research and resources to break the cycle. I will push for critical investments to be made in trauma-informed education and care, and local community strategies that have been shown to reduce gun violence.

As a lifelong gun violence prevention advocate I have organized on the front lines of communities that experience everyday gun violence on the west side of Chicago and I have organized in red Republican run states like Louisiana. My priority is not to take guns away from legal gun owners, it is to keep guns out of the hands of people who pose a threat to themselves or the public.

At the federal level, there are some top priorities that I would push for related to common sense gun laws.

I would support:

Requiring background checks on all gun sales (passed the House).

Red flag laws (to alert police to those who are a danger to themselves and others).

Removing guns in domestic violence situations (Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act).

Financial support for community-based violence prevention programs.

A ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.

Raising the legal age to purchase a gun to 21.

I would block:

”Stand your ground” laws.

Arming teachers and school staff, we must keep guns out of schools and off college campuses.

Concealed carry reciprocity.

Permit-less carry, gun owners need licenses and training and be regulated just like driving a car.

As Congresswoman, I will continue to champion critical investments in trauma informed education and specifically advocate for additional increases in flexible funding to support innovative local efforts on this front.

Is climate change real? Is it significantly man-made? Is it a threat to humankind? What if anything should Congress and the federal government do about it?

In IL-07, there is a stark contrast between the more affluent neighborhoods that have invested in green spaces and clean energy and the communities of black and brown families where we see a high percentage of childhood asthma, food deserts with lack of fresh produce, and some areas that have higher levels of lead in the water than Flint, Michigan. I fully support the Green New Deal, because we must take bold action to address the urgent environmental crises threatening the future of our country. We must take an equity approach to solving this problem, and the Poor People’s Campaign has provided a blueprint which focuses on investing in a clean energy transition — and in basic resource rights like clean water — that would create jobs, save trillions, and address the needs of the poor and people of color who are already feeling the worst effects of climate change. We cannot separate environmental justice from economic justice, and I plan to bring training and opportunities for green jobs into the south and west sides of Chicago so that they do not get left behind as we push to become the world leaders in the green industry.

In Congress, I would support legislation aimed at achieving the goal of 100% renewable energy generation by 2035. I will also push for the United States to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and commit to significant reductions in carbon emissions from our power grid, as well as other sources.

America’s First Nations have seen their tribal sovereignty trampled on by the federal government time and time again. In Congress, I will work closely with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Interior Department, the State Department, and the EPA to ensure that the will of tribal nations is respected with regards to water rights, resource extraction, and new or existing energy infrastructure, like the Keystone XL pipeline.

Finally, the biggest difference between me and the incumbent is that he has taken thousands of dollars from corporate PACS. I pledge to not take contributions from the oil, gas, and coal industry and instead prioritize the health of our families, climate, and democracy over fossil fuel industry profits.

What should Congress do to ensure the solvency of Social Security and Medicare?

In order to make good on America’s promise that Social Security will pay all of the benefits owed to every eligible American for the next five decades, we can not cut benefits. We must stop the cap on taxable income so that the wealthy pay their fair share into the Social Security system.

I agree with presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s plan to ask the top 2% of earners to start contributing a fair share of their wages to the system and by asking the top 2% of families to contribute a portion of their net investment income into the system as well.

I also believe that we must put forth an equity assessment in the Social Security system to address the racial and gender pay gap. We know that because of worker and pay discrimination people of color and women have gotten the short end of the stick when they retire. It is the main reason women over 65 are about 80% more likely to live in poverty than men. It is my belief that any American working for 30 or 40 years and paying into the Social Security program should not be retiring into poverty.

What should Congress do to address the student loan crisis? Would you use the word “crisis”?

Yes, I would call the national student loan debt we have accumulated a crisis. What I also believe is a crisis, is the lack of direction and leadership in the Department of Education by Secretary Betsy Devos, who has attempted to derail and gut the federal loan forgiveness program. In my opinion, this is the single greatest economic crisis for future generations of Americans who are no longer purchasing homes or investing in retirement. The growing student loan debt crisis has swelled to $1.6 trillion with no comprehensive approach or solution on how to decrease the debt.

I support presidential candidate Bernie Sanders proposal to cancel the entire $1.6 trillion in student loan debt. Some believe this is a radical proposal but what I find radical is:

The Federal Reserve reported that in 2014 alone, student loan debt prevented 400,000 young Americans from purchasing homes.

People with $30,000 in student loan debt are 11% less likely to start businesses than are those without debt.

Since 2004, the number of Americans 60 and over with student loan debt has more than quintupled—from 600,000 to 3.2 million—and tens of thousands of older borrowers have had their Social Security benefits seized by the government to pay for student loans.

The elimination of student loan debt will stimulate the housing market, grow small businesses which will help create jobs, and relieve 45 million Americans from crushing student loan debt.

Leading into the transition of full loan forgiveness of the $1.6 trillion in national student loans, in Congress I would support efforts to freeze the growth of interest on federally subsidized and unsubsidized student loans, including Parent PLUS loans and push for students to have the ability to refinance their loans.

What should our nation’s relationship be with Russia?

Russia is one of the greatest geopolitical threats to American democracy. We should be focusing on strengthening our relationships with allies and holding countries like Russia, who rule with xenophobia and authoritarianism, accountable for their actions. Russia has tampered with our election process and poses serious threats to our allies globally.

In the past few years we have watched Russia invade Georgia, annex Crimea, attack Ukraine, commit international human rights violations at home and aboard while also interfering with elections here in the United States. However, the Trump administration has had too soft an approach with dealing with egregious offenses such as these carried out by Russia, leading to the continued disrespect.

We need to elect a president who will, toughen sanctions, strengthen relationships with global allies, and conduct more assertive diplomacy.

What’s your view on the use of tariffs in international commerce? Has President Trump imposed tariffs properly and effectively? Please explain.

I do not believe that Trump is utilizing tariffs properly, his administration has used it in an abusive manner instead of keeping the interest of farmers, consumers, our country’s economy, and the global economy at the forefront. We saw firsthand how the trade war with China has impacted farmers in a negative way and hurt our economy overall.

I believe in the development, cultivation, and building of strong local economies here in the United States that help create high paying union jobs for everyday people. I believe that tariffs, if used in a rational way and in good faith, can serve as an efficient and effective negotiation tactic in trade policy.

Does the United States have a responsibility to promote democracy in other countries? Please explain.

We need strong yet pragmatic security policies, amplified by diplomacy. And the United States can no longer maintain the comfortable assumption that its domestic and foreign policies are separate. Every decision the government makes should be grounded in the recognition that actions that undermine working families in this country ultimately erode American strength in the world. In other words, we need a foreign policy that works for all Americans.

We need a Congress who will reject handing over unchecked power and blank checks to Presidents to fund endless wars. Which is why I would have voted “No” for the National Defense Authorization Act which gave Trump the legal authority and a blank check to carry out the attack on Iran. My opponent Congressman Davis voted “Yes” on NDAA. We need to elevate new leadership that will provide alternatives to senseless and expensive wars.

What should Congress do to limit the proliferation of nuclear arms?

Nuclear weapons are the single greatest threat to human life, which is why we must always seek to de-escalate when the threat of nuclear warfare has the possibility of occurring. I support the No First Use Act, which aims to transform US nuclear weapons policy. The entire piece of legislation reads: “It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.” We have seen the catastrophic effects of utilizing nuclear weapons in war and I also support banning the development of new nuclear weapons.

Our goal should always be to reduce the risk of nuclear miscalculation, strengthening our deterrence and increasing strategic stability by clarifying our declaratory policy, preserving the U.S. second-strike capability to retaliate against any nuclear attack on the U.S. or its allies. Ultimately, the end goal should always be steer clear of nuclear warfare.

Please list all relatives on public or campaign payrolls and their jobs on those payrolls.

N/A

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.

The Illinois figure that I draw inspiration from is, former CTU President Karen Lewis. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that the “moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice”. Karen Lewis helped us see that everyday people are those defenders of the arc, she helped us see that the arc doesn’t just bend toward justice, but it also bends towards equity, inclusion, and freedom. She is a freedom fighter and for little Black girls like me growing up in Chicago’s tough neighborhoods it felt good to look up and see her in the “ring” fighting for us! Teachers are gatekeepers to the future and my grandmother used to say, “blessed is the educator”, how lucky to grow up seeing someone so bold, so strong, and so ready to defend the next generation of leaders who will build Chicago. I became an organizer because of educators in CPS like Karen Lewis who gave me a book to read and bullhorn to lift my voice. Educators who fought like hell to keep our schools open, dig in their pockets for extra school supplies, and encouraged me to apply to college outside of my community. The one thing I will always love about watching Karen Lewis at rallies was that she wasn’t just speaking for students here in Chicago, she was fighting for all students across the country. Students in cities like Baltimore, Philly, New Orleans, Detroit, and Youngstown. Karen Lewis understood the golden rule in order for us to make the dream real anywhere, we have to fight like hell to make the dream real everywhere.

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

My all time favorite show is “The Wire” on HBO. The show broke down the complexities of what growing up in urban America truly feels like.