Amy Crawford's run for 46th Ward alderman has been a long time coming. A resident of the ward for nearly a decade, she has long been involved in community and advocacy groups supporting childhood education and LGBT rights. In 2008 she took time off from her clerkship with a federal judge to work on Obama's campaign, which she says was an exciting and transformational time that ignited a political fire.
In the time since then she has remained active in her community, practiced law—including LGBT rights pro bono work—and, last January, adopted a baby boy with her wife. That was the real turning point that inspired Crawford to go one step further and run against current 46th Ward alderman James Cappleman.
"Now as a parent, that was also a catalyst for us," she says. "You want to be the kind of person that you'd like to see him become, you'd like to emulate the values you'd like to see him have."
As part of a same sex couple with a biracial child, Crawford sees Uptown as the perfect neighborhood for her family; it's culturally diverse and LGBT friendly. But for it to fully become an idyllic place for her son to grow up she's well aware of the problems she needs to tackle. At the top of her list are issues with neighborhood schools and increased crime.
"I want to be clear about saying that Uptown is generally a safe neighborhood," she says. "But it's just a fact that random violence, particularly gun violence, is really scary for families. We want to make this a neighborhood that is family friendly where people want to move here and also put down roots here."
Crawford's already been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of the Police, a step in the right direction for her plan to increase a preventative police presence throughout the ward. Along with a more prominent police presence she wants to implement more after-school and weekend activities for youths.
Once neighborhood crime is under control, she sees the rest falling into place. Schools will improve. Small businesses won't be afraid to set up shop. Visitors attending concerts at the Riviera Theatre or Aragon Ballroom won't feel the need to rush home; they'll stay to appreciate the neighborhood's architecture and "cultural vibrancy." At least that's Crawford's hope.
That's not to say she's all for major developments in the area. Though she admits that gentrification seems inevitable, it's important to her to keep a balance between positively building up the neighborhood and maintaining the morale of the ward's existing residents.
Before deciding to run for office, Crawford was a partner at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis and was active in local sports leagues, serving as captain of her softball and flag football teams. But the past year was a whirlwind—she adopted her son and began campaigning—and her family's been rolling with the punches.
"We just get used to the new normal basically every day," Crawford says. "[My wife's] known that I have a deep passion to help others and be involved with the community. It may be a pain in the butt now for her, but it's something she really respects and may actually love about me."
With support from her wife, family, and friends, she's committed to set aside her legal work to be a full-time alderman. And as the election draws nearer, she remains optimistic that success is in the cards.
"I have a real soft spot for what makes Uptown in particular very special, but I think for that reason, I thought a long time before I decided to run," Crawford says. "What's exciting to me is that the support for the campaign is drawing from the broad diversity that I really love about the ward. I just feel like that energy is growing."