A confluence of financial stresses and pressures led to Jacques Conway's surprise resignation from the Oak Park-River Forest High School board last May.
Now, he wants to tackle a job that is way-low on the popularity scale, high on frustration and takes up gobs of time away from home.
Conway wants to be a congressman.
The 49-year-old River Forest resident filed his statement of candidacy with the Illinois State Board of Elections last month to run as a Democrat in the 7th Congressional District.
He’s running against Danny K. Davis, who has represented the Oak Park area since 1997. Davis has loads of name recognition, an ensconced campaign organization and lots of campaign cash — $263,667, according to the latest disclosure filed with the Federal Election Commission. (Conway said he wanted to wait until the Jan. 4 deadline for challenging the candidacy had passed before he started soliciting for money and putting together an organization.)
But Conway said he’s not deterred.
If fact, he said he likes Davis and told Patch that if elected, his votes would align closely with the longtime Congressman. (Here’s Davis’ voting record, via the Washington Post)
Still, Conway said he’s aiming to provide an alternative to Davis, a politician he said has been in office for too long.
“The founding fathers did not mean for this job to be a career,” Conway said. “They meant it to be for public service.”
A former Oak Park police officer and currently the minister at Neighborhood United Methodist Church in Maywood, Conway also serves as executive director of Teamwork Englewood, an organization he helped found in 2002 that provides a variety of programs and services in one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods.
It’s a job that requires plenty of commitment, and it led to Conway’s resignation from the District 200 board. He said he agreed to come back to the association in 2010 and work there until 2012, unless a new executive director was found before then. He's still there.
But other outside pressures led to the resignation, including a fight with U.S. Bank over the loan for his River Forest home. He said has been fighting with the institution since it called the loan on his property. Meanwhile, he is still living in the house.
“With the position in Englewood I wanted to make sure it was on solid footing...I needed to be there. With the bank issues and foreclosure, there was so much going on that I needed some air,” he said.
He didn’t find any serving on the District 200 board, entrenched in its own yearslong fight over tax increment financing lawsuit, which was recently settled. Conway said the board’s focus became more about contracts and money than it was on students, and he said he simply ran out of energy. He was replaced by Valerie Fisher.
“I could not contribute to that (the board) to the point where I could be productive,” he said. “I was frustrated about all of the things that were out of my control.”
Looking back, he does not regret the decision. The Englewood organization has stabilized, the family pressures have eased and he’s developed a renewed passion for public life.
Looking ahead to his campaign, he thinks he’s better aligned with voters because he’s faced the issues they’ve faced: fighting banks, unemployment, working to put children in college.
Conway won’t predict how the campaign will turn out. No one has challenged Davis in the Democratic Party primary for years. During the last general election, Davis ran away with the election in a three-way race.
But who knows what will happen this time?
“It won’t be a perfect campaign. If the voters show up at the polls, it will be a good race,” Conway said.
Efforts to reach Davis for this story were unsuccessful.