Petitions don’t need to be filed until Nov. 2, but the race for the newly-created 11th Congressional District is already starting to heat up.
On Monday, former Aurora Township Clerk Juan Thomas announced his run for the office, the third Democrat to do so. Thomas, a born-and-raised Auroran, returned to the city in April after spending 18 months working with a church in New Orleans.
Thomas, a lawyer with his own practice, has deep roots in Aurora. His father owned a small business there for 25 years, and Thomas has been an elected official there since 1995, when, at 25, he became the youngest person ever elected to the West Aurora School Board.
He ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 1998, worked for Secretary of State Jesse White in the early 2000s, and went on to serve on the Aurora Township Board as clerk from 2005 to 2009. Thomas is also an ordained minister who works with churches in Aurora.
Thomas said he brings to the table a sense of leadership for the new 11th District, which covers portions of Oswego, Montgomery, Plainfield, Romeoville, Bolingbrook, Woodridge, Darien, Channahon, Shorewood, Joliet and Naperville, among other communities.
The new district, he said, is more racially and economically diverse than the old 14th District, something that could give him the edge over former 14th District Congressman Bill Foster, who has also announced his candidacy for the new seat. Foster, Thomas said, is a centrist who would not be the best fit for the “more progressive” 11th District.
However, he said, he would support the Democratic nominee in the district, whoever it is.
Thomas said his main priority will be bringing jobs to the district, and said he would like to use federal resources to help communities like Aurora and Joliet revitalize their downtowns.
“The rapidly growing, diverse communities of the district face a unique set of suburban, urban, and exurban issues,” he said. “My background and experience have given me a broad perspective and understanding that allows me to be in tune with the day-to-day challenges and concerns of working families.”
The newly-drawn 11th District has no incumbent. In addition to Thomas and Foster, , a Democrat; Republican ; and Chris Balkema, a Republican Grundy County Board member, have also announced their bids for the seat.