I am writing to express my strong support for the candidacy of Robyn Gabel as the Democratic primary candidate for the 18th District seat being vacated by Julie Hamos. I have known Robyn since the late 1970’s when we worked together in a group called Women Organized for Reproductive Choice formed to fight the Hyde Amendment (aimed at restricting Medicaid funding for abortion.) At the time, Robyn was Director of the Chicago Women’s Health Center and I was an active member of the Chicago Women’s Health Task Force. From the beginning, Robyn impressed me as a dynamic leader as well as a terrific tactician; through our efforts to organize and educate other women about their rights, we became friends and colleagues in the struggle for reproductive freedom. When a decade later, I was a founding Board Member of the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition (ILMCH), and we needed to replace the Executive Director for our nascent organization, Robyn was an easy choice. Working with Robyn over the last two decades as we fought for the Medicaid expansions for pregnant women, as we worked with state government officials to ensure that the implementation of the Child Health Insurance Program in Illinois had teeth, and as we developed strategies to expand school health centers, I have never been disappointed.
When friends in Evanston, ask me why I am supporting Robyn within a field of other competent candidates, I tell them how effective Robyn has been in Springfield, not just with legislators but with state agency administrators as well. What I tell them is that Robyn not only has vision, but knows how to make important alliances with natural partners as well as with those she brings into the fold through her excellent political skills. Robyn may not know the nuances of every Evanston political issue since her experience has been more on a statewide rather than local basis, but I am positive she will hit the ground running, bringing a clear, progressive voice to Springfield representing the values of our diverse and vibrant Evanston community. The thought of “losing” her as Executive Director of IMCHC is a bit scary but I know if we lose her, women, children and families in Illinois will have a strong champion in Springfield. Most importantly, I know this will not be a steppingstone position for Robyn; she is not trying to launch a political career from this experience. Instead, winning the primary and then the seat is the logical next step in a lifelong career as a progressive advocate for the underserved, the vulnerable, and for all of us who cherish a woman’s right to choose and all of our rights to social and economic justice.