A Joliet woman and Ottawa native said her life experience makes up for her lack of electoral experience.
She is running in next spring's primary for the Democratic nomination in the 16th Congressional District.
Amy Murri Briel, a community activist and a married mother of three sons, announced her candidacy for the nomination last month and has made the rounds at various functions and meetings throughout the district.
Briel is one of five Democratic hopefuls who are all vying for the opportunity to officially run for Congressman Adam Kinzinger's seat in the 2018 general election next November. Kinzinger has announced he will run again for the post.
"I have always been active in politics on the local level and I know there is something more important in our community than what we have been focusing on," Briel said. "Growing up in Ottawa, I received a wonderful education and it bothers me that Congress has really done nothing in the last few years to support educational reforms. We cannot leave these young people behind."
A 1998 Illinois State University graduate, Briel, 42, said, "The people in this district are not satisfied. I am finding out they want a new, realistic approach. They want someone in office who listens rather than someone who ignores them."
Briel said Kinzinger doesn't host public town hall meetings in the district and that if she were elected, she will host regular town hall meetings in all parts of the district.
"Adam (Kinzinger) hasn't had any real challengers in the last few elections and, if I win the nomination, I plan to give him a run for his money. I believe this district can be flipped to the Democrats."
She said her main issues in her primary campaign are educational reform, infrastructure rehabilitation and health care.
"I want to bring understanding, compromise and civility back into politics," she said. "My parents taught me to help others when you can. We must come together. We need to work together."
Briel said Kinzinger's massive campaign fund — nearly $2 million — does not worry her.
"I will not be influenced by corporate or PAC money or any outsiders," she said. "My campaign will be financed by grassroots donations from those living in the district. (Kinzinger) likes to be on television talking soundbites. He seems to like being a TV star rather than a legislator."
She said she was having great success at meeting constituents while traveling to different towns.
"I'm learning by listening," she said. "People are angry. They feel left out. I want to give people their voices back in political decisions — to find (the best) solutions.
"We need to get past sound bites and false promises. I feel that makes me stand out from the other candidates. I'm a realist and I understand what needs to be done to get past the anger and divisiveness to make progress. In my heart, we need to take better care of each other and choose what is right for all of us."
At this time, Briel currently lives "five or 10 minutes" out of the district (which, by law, is allowed), but she said, if elected, she and her family would move back to Ottawa permanently.
"People in this district — across the political spectrum — want a change," she concluded. "They do not want the status quo. I feel I'm energetic and confident enough to win this race. I want to show people how much I care. I need to do this for my family. I need to do this for others. I want to make a difference."