From ISG to Congress: UI alum runs for office


Photo courtesy of Nikki Budzinski

Nikki Budzinski, an alumna from the University, won the Democratic Party’s primary for Illinois’ 13th Congressional District. During her time at the University, she was the the president of the Illini Democrats and as a senator in Illinois Student Government.

By Rebecca Oriza, Staff Writer

Emerging victorious from the Democratic Party’s primary is Nikki Budzinski. If elected come November, she will be the first University alum to represent Illinois’ 13th Congressional District. As an LAS graduate, she credits her time at the University as the start of her political career, where she majored in political science and history.

Alongside her academics, Budzinski served as the president of the Illini Democrats and as a senator in Illinois Student Government. She also volunteered to help the campaigns of several county Democrats.

Outside of campus, Budzinski credits her summer experiences with influencing her venture into politics. During her summers, she interned for former senator Paul Simon, former congressman Richard Gephardt and Planned Parenthood.

“This really inspired me to commit myself to a career involved in public service and to make a difference,” Budzinski said. “I found that calling and passion while I was a student on campus.”

Coming full circle, she is now endorsed by Planned Parenthood as well as other political officials.

“After graduating from college, I moved to Springfield where I started my career in public service, working in state government,” Budzinski said. “I’ve returned to this district throughout my career, and I feel like this is a very dynamic district. I made that decision to run because I felt and still do believe working families are struggling in the 13th District to just make ends meet.”

In Springfield, Budzinski works as Gov. JB Pritzker’s senior advisor on labor issues, where she meets with union representatives. Through this, she helped negotiate the $15 minimum wage. Budzinski has also contributed to the Biden Administration’s Office of Management and Budget.

Budzinski cites the labor movement as the galvanizing force behind her campaign.

“So, these are the folks that are really the backbone of my campaign,” Budzinski said. “We are really building a local grassroots campaign that’s going to win this, and I’m very proud of that. I very much believe in things like infrastructure investments that help us in strengthening our university, strengthening our communities.”

Two major issues during this election cycle have been political polarization and gerrymandering. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project, a nonpartisan project dedicated to analyzing the extent of gerrymandering across the country, graded Illinois’ redistricing process an ‘F,’ stating that the map gives significant advantages to Democrats and incumbents.

Regarding the competitiveness of the 13th District’s election, Budzinski described the district as “commonsense.”

“I think this is a very competitive race,” Budzinski said. “I think that this district is what I refer to as a commonsense district. It’s a district of people that really want to send someone to Washington that can get something done, and that’s really something I’ve been.”

Budzinski said two priorities for her campaign are including different types of communities within the district and engaging students.

“I think it’s incredibly important that we engage all communities throughout this district because it is going to be a very competitive race,” Budzinski said. “And getting students involved in my campaign is something that personally means a lot to me and is going to be critically important to our win in November. I really believe we’ll be able to win.”

While working with Gov. Pritzker, Budzinki served as the chair of the Broadband Advisory Council, which she cited as experience in bipartisanship.

“We worked with Democrats and Republicans to get that done,” Budzinski said. “That’s critically important for rural communities. I think our agriculture economy is critically important throughout the state of Illinois. Supporting our family farmers is also very important.”

Budzinki said that, if elected, her priority would be helping constituents benefit financially.

“My number one priority in going to Congress is considering, ‘How do we help these folks keep more of what they earn?’” Budzinski said. “Congress should be working with them, and that’s what I would want to do.”

Budzinski is facing Republican Regan Deering in the general election on Nov. 8. All major political race trackers have the district listed as “leaning Democrat” demographically.


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