Name: Cynthia Given
Seat: State Senator, 55th District
Describe your background, and how it relates to being a state legislator.
My name is Cynthia Given, and I am running for the open seat in the 55th Legislative District. I recently celebrated my 13th year in business on Main Street in Olney. Two years ago, I received the “business of the month” designation from the Olney and Greater Richland County Chamber of Commerce. I am active in the chamber and served as a mentor for the first year of our local CEO program. I have served on my high school alumni board for the better part of a decade as well as a business mentor, offering assistance to entrepreneurs looking to boost their businesses on a budget. I launched and grew my own business in the last recession and doubled it when my mother joined me in 2014. I graduated from three schools in our district: Carmi-White County High School, Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, and Southeastern Illinois College (Carmi campus). I studied history at Louisiana State University. In college, I served as an intern for U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and former U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu. Find me on Facebook: “Elect Cynthia Given.” Website: CynthiaGiven.com
Grade the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This pandemic has highlighted our urgent need for local resources. Our friends and neighbors are experiencing great challenges with anxiety, depression, chemical dependency, and pre-existing health conditions. As a small business owner, I have experienced income loss and see my business neighbors doing great things with very little resources. Unfortunately, we all feel the effect of leaders spreading misinformation that this virus is a hoax or “a mild flu.” While I applaud Gov. Pritzker and Dr. Ezike for basing their policies on science, we are hurting. Not only do we need to stop the spread of this virus and misinformation, but we also need to address where Gov. Pritzker missed the mark: pandemic unemployment, small business relief, essential worker relief, and protecting our children and seniors. Of the 24 counties currently at the warning level for COVID-19, nine counties are in the 55th legislative district. Effingham County is one of the high-risk counties.
What can the state legislature do to help with the recovery from the pandemic?
Recovery ultimately begins with voters. A good leader considers the needs of the entire district, such as health care “deserts” and families struggling to make ends meet. Our families will not be included in plans to restore Illinois if we keep electing people who propose to divide it.
Besides the pandemic, what is the biggest issue facing the state, and how does it affect the people in your district? How will you address it?
Divisiveness is the #1 issue. Separation is literally on the ballot. Some counties in our area heavily rely on taxpayer dollars from the greater Chicago area for basic operating expenses and essential services. Whether or not I am elected, I will continue to find ways to bring people together by having difficult conversations, building bridges instead of walls, and celebrating our common ground.
Describe an issue that is unique to your district and how you would address it in the legislature.
In May, our current representative was escorted from the house floor. His physical absence allowed other legislators (who are not from here and do not know us) to decide our future. I am running because every man, woman, and child in our district deserves a leader who is committed full-time to growing our communities and improving the lives of working-class and middle-class families. Our rural population is underrepresented in Springfield. As a business owner living in the middle of the district, people tell me their concerns about how we are literally left out of the legislative process. I have not and will not accept corporate contributions. My campaign is 100% funded by people, and that is who I will represent in Springfield.
What is your position on the progressive tax amendment? Why do you support or oppose it?
I support tax relief for essential workers and working class families. As it is written, the Fair Tax amendment allows the legislature to create tiers to lower tax liability working families (mirroring the federal structure). It does not tax retirement income. It does not increase the power of the legislature to increase taxes without voter approval. The legislature can already do this. The reason why I support the Fair Tax Amendment instead of its alternatives: a Fair Tax addresses funding for both schools and state pensions, something that simply cutting the budget fails to repair.
If you are elected, how would you reach out to constituents who did not vote for you and what would you do to make sure their concerns are heard? How in general will you stay connected to your constituents?
As your senator, I will fight to keep more of our tax dollars right here in our local communities. There are no Democrat highways or Republican libraries. A good leader thinks and acts beyond party lines, and we all deserve to be heard. I will host non-partisan public listening sessions throughout the district (ADA accessible). Too many politicians use meetings to advance their agendas instead of listen to taxpayers. Meetings will include elected officials from the county and city so taxpayers can understand how different levels of government work together for them. I will accommodate constituents who are socially distancing. Together we will discuss issues, legislation, and solutions.
Describe how you would find ways to work with legislators on the other side of the aisle.
Since I began running, I have met with people of differing viewpoints as well as no party affiliation. I actually used the process of collecting signatures to appear on the ballot to connect with conservative and independent voters. The truth is that we are more alike than different. By meeting with everyone, my incredibly hard working group of volunteers helped me safely collect over 1,500 signatures (150% of the required signatures) in May during a pandemic. We were successful because we worked across the aisle. While I was unanimously nominated by my party leaders, I was nominated because those leaders know I will be a fair and independent senator. Thank you so much for your time. I hope these answers have helped you become more informed, and I hope you will vote for Cynthia Given for State Senate on November 3rd.