Jacqueline McGowan shares her plans to keep Illinois’ District-17 blue

Robert J Hansen

Jacqueline McGowan, Democratic candidate for Illinois’ Congressional District-17.(Courtesy of Jacqueline McGowan)

Sacramento, Calif.- by Robert J Hansen

After her Gubernatorial campaign in California last year, Jacqueline McGowan came back to Illinois, where she lived for ten years growing up in Chicago, to run for Congress in District 17.

A Former cannabis lobbyist and stockbroker, McGowan recently was certified as an official candidate after her signatures were challenged by Litesa Wallace, another candidate for District 17.

Now that she is on the ballot, McGowan shared some of what she hopes to do for Illinois and prevent District 17 from being won by a Republican this November.

The interview has been edited for clarity.

Q: What made you decide to run for Congress in D-17? 

A: “After my campaign for Governor went much better than expected, I realized I should be pursuing higher offices to utilize the experience that I have gained in seeing how the sausage is made at the legislative level in cannabis in California. This was an open seat and I have 250 first and second cousins that live in Illinois, some in this district and this was an opportunity to bring my experience back to my roots,” McGowan said.

Q: Some people think you are from California and don’t understand Illinois politics or issues. What do you say to them?

A: “I already planned to return to Illinois to rejoin my family after my race for Governor in California. When I saw that a Trump Republican received 48 percent of the vote in 2020, I knew that the 17th District was vulnerable to turning red. I wanted to make sure that the Trump sycophant king would never represent the 17th Congressional District and I saw a very vulnerable seat that’s been barely held onto by a Democrat for the last ten years in one of the most purple districts in the country,” McGowan said. “If this seat is lost to a Trump Republican it could mean Kevin McCarthy becomes the next Speaker of the House. That to me is terrifying.”

Q: What went wrong with California’s prop 64?

A: According to McGowan, Proposition 64 over regulates and over taxes at the local and state levels. 

“It’s a convoluted way to regulate a new industry with a dual licenser so you have to follow local and state regulations hoping they match up and sometimes they don’t,” McGowan said. “I have spoken with people in the City of Sacramento and County of Santa Barbara and each of those has 17 different agencies that are regulating the cannabis business. Operators went from creating a product and bringing it to market to becoming compliance officers. I doubt that there isn’t any other industry that has that many agencies trying to regulate it. It has just become too convoluted and too complicated to make a profit.”

Jacqueline McGowan in the St. Patrick Day parade in Rockford Illinois on Thursday, March 27, 2022.(Courtesy of Jacqueline McGowan)

Q: How would you prevent the federal government from doing the same if cannabis is legalized nationwide?

A: “I don’t think there is a state that has gotten this right yet. How we legalize should be the discussion we are having at the federal level not if and when. We need to make sure that separate issues aren’t compounding the main issue of federal legalization not happening. I look forward to day one, introducing legislation to free 40,0000 non-violent cannabis convictions because that shouldn’t get tied up and killed in any other bill. Those people are serving very long sentences for very minor possession charges for something that’s almost legal in the majority of the country.” 

Mcgowan mentioned other issues that need to be addressed individually such as the inability to work with banks which leads to carrying large amounts of cash, allowing states to continue without adding more federal regulations and removing a tax code, 280E that allows cannabis businesses to be overtaxed.

280E prohibits taxpayers who are engaged in the business of trafficking certain controlled substances (most notably, marijuana) from deducting typical business expenses according to the IRS.

“They treat you like a drug criminal with 280E,” McGowan said.

Q: Which industries are suffering the most from labor shortages in Illinois?

A: “Hands down it is the foodservice industry. There are plenty of low-paying jobs but there aren’t enough people willing to work the low-paying jobs anymore,” McGowan said. “To get more people into the district we need a high-speed rail.” 

McGowan said improvements to infrastructure are one solution to the labor shortage in District 17.

Q: What can bring them back if anything?

“Lots of restaurants have signs up saying they will give a $3,000 signing bonus to come and work there. Well if you can afford a $3,000 signing bonus you can afford more per hour,” McGowan said. “Maybe if you pay more per hour you could get more people in there to work.”

The minimum wage in Illinois is $12 an hour and will increase by $1 an hour each year until it reaches $15 per hour in January 2025.

Q: What do you want to tell voters?

A: “My soul is most content when I’m of service to others. I’m single, I don’t have any children, I’ve always been addicted to my work and I’m now addicted to making the lives of the working class better,” McGowan said.

The Illinois Democratic primary is June 28.

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Robert J Hansen is staff writer for the Sacramento Observer. His areas of focus are on local politics, public safety accountability, homelessness, race and anything related with criminal, civil and family courts throughout the greater Sacramento area and California.

Sacramento County, CA

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