While law student Mohammed "Mo" Khan campaigns for the Democratic nomination for the 20th District state representative seat, he said he's looking forward to possibly challenging incumbent state Rep. Michael McAuliffe (R-20th) in the November general election. But Khan said he is not taking the primary contest lightly.
"My efforts haven't wavered. I'm in drive mode, trying to secure the nomination," Khan said.
Khan, 28, who grew up in Park Ridge and moved back from Chicago in 2011, will face Jerry J. Acciari of Niles in the March 18 Democratic primary. The 20th State House District includes parts of Des Plaines, Rosemont, Park Ridge and Niles.
Calls and emails to Acciari for comment on this story were not returned.
Khan said that his main goal in running for office is to increase job growth and help new businesses in the district.
"We need to turn the tax-incentive program in Illinois upside-down," Khan said. "We need to stop tax incentives for big corporations and focus on start-up companies. Innovators need more access to capital."
Khan described McAuliffe, who has been in office since 1996, as someone who hasn't done enough to help fuel job growth.
"His record is what it is. Look at where the state has gone in the last 18 years," Khan said. "He and Acciari are stuck in the politics of the past, not the issues of the future."
McAuliffe, who is running unopposed in the primary, said that jobs are important to the district, but added that keeping property taxes and crime low are also priorities.
"We have a large senior population. Property-tax relief is huge," McAuliffe said. "People want to send their kids to good schools and have a safe neighborhood."
Khan is unmarried. He said he earned an undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Iowa in 2007 before joining then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign to secure the Democratic presidential nomination. Khan said he will graduate from Loyola University Chicago School of Law next year.
Khan said he got his first real taste of politics while working with Clinton in 2007-2008.
Khan said he was a traveling aide for Clinton. After she was defeated in the 2008 party primary by Barack Obama, Khan went on to work on Alexi Giannoulias' 2010 campaign to replace Obama as Illinois' U.S. senator. Giannoulias was defeated by then-Rep. Mark Kirk.
Khan said working for Giannoulias was "an amazing experience because I met people from all over the state" – which was in-line with what he said Clinton advised the fellow Maine South alum to do.
"She told me to get out and meet people and learn about them," Khan said.
Khan said he's been doing his best to do that, knocking on doors in the 20th District. He said it has helped him learn about the topics important to voters.
"The one thing that connects all the communities in Illinois is the concern about jobs. Not enough is being done. State government has a big impact on people. There is a jobs crisis in Illinois. This is a very tough time that we're living through," Khan said.
He said that, if elected, it may take some time to make big changes, but that he is in favor of term limits and thinks some politicians argue against them to "keep the politics of the past."
"Some say it takes years to learn how the General Assembly works," Khan said. "I don't doubt that it takes some time, but if the Chicago Bears drafted someone who didn't produce results in 10 or 20 years, people would be up in arms."