Get to know Sen. Robert Peters

(Published April 30, 2019)
By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Following Sen. Kwame Raoul’s election win as attorney general, the 13th District Democratic Legislative Committee appointed community organizer Robert Peters to the role in the Illinois Senate. By state law, a term of less than two years will be filled by appointment instead of by a special election. District 13 includes Streeterville and New Eastside.

Peters will be up for election in 2020 in the Democratic primary and his term ends in 2021.

How is the session going?

The session has been going well. To see millions of Illinoisans get a pay raise with the minimum wage increase was truly special.

I’m most proud to be doing work that is focused on breaking the systemic crisis of incarceration. So much of this work is driven by advocates and organizers that care deeply about changing this world.

What issues are important to you?

I was born deaf with a massive speech impediment and my biological mother was addicted to drugs and alcohol and I was put up for adoption. My adopted parents were a social worker for a mom and a civil rights lawyer for a father. My social worker for a mother died with $300,000 of debt and with mental health issues and alcoholism.

I see all of these parts of my story not as my own, and only my own, but that right here in Chicago people share these experiences all the time. Some talk about it, most don’t, but they feel these experiences. I work on issues that are rooted in both my experiences and the experiences of the directly impacted.

You were appointed rather than elected, so does the lack of a mandate make it harder to legislate?

I was appointed and it’s my job to earn the trust and support of the voters of the 13th District. I have to show to folks that not only am I qualified for the job but that I will have an open and honest process since there is an understood distrust with our politics.

Do you expect to run for re-election?

I just want to keep growing as a legislator first. I do plan to run for election in 2020.

You represent a district once represented by Barack Obama. Any big plans of your own for the future?

I just want to make the most of this session and line up with some great advocates for some strong legislation for next year too.

What’s some trivia that’s not well known about you?

When I was a kid, my dad used to sit me down every Saturday and make me watch “Rudy” and then every morning before school yell “Rudy” to me and say, “never give up and always try.” He never meant it in winning or losing but just that so many people told him he shouldn’t have adopted me and they told me the same thing. It was like his old-Irish version of “screw the haters, Robert.”

Also, I’m a die-hard “Rudy” fan.

[Robert Peters speaks at a recent event. Photo courtesy Robert Peters]

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