Suzanne Elder (née Lagershausen; born 1961) is a Chicago community activist who has worked on school, health care, and community issues. In 2008, Elder was an unsuccessful candidate in the Democratic primary for the Illinois State Senate from the 7th District.
Education and activism
She earned a Master's degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago, where she co-authored with Prof. Don Coursey, Dean of the Harris School of Public Policy Studies, a study on the impact of abortion legislation on access to abortion.
A community organizer who once worked with the Organization of the North East ("O.N.E."), Elder organized and mobilized a coalition of 1,400 families and authored The Care of Students with Diabetes Act, which passed the Illinois House, and is currently pending in the Illinois Senate. A businesswoman, Elder advised the Regional Transportation Authority on marketing and communications strategies to increase use of mass transit in the Chicago area.
Elder is a member of the Northside Chicago chapter of Democracy for America, an organization initially formed by former Howard Dean supporters which encourages grassroots Democrats to run for local, state, and federal office. In November 2007 she was a candidate for the Illinois State Senate as a Democrat for the vacated seat of Carol Ronen. Her campaign confronted political corruption by challenging the widespread practice of pay-to-play politics in Illinois, the abuse of tax increment financing (TIF) districts, and urging reform of Illinois tax structure. The pro-choice and pro-gay marriage stances of Elder also caused the race to attract substantial attention in the LGBT community; this is significant because the district takes in Andersonville, Rogers Park, Buena Park, and Edgewater, which include the highest concentration of gays in Illinois.
Elder was endorsed by the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO), the Northside DFA, National Organization for Women PAC, Americans for Democratic Action, the Illinois Coalition for Honest Government, and the Greater Chicagoland Caucus started by Christine Cegelis, but had little support from any current or past elected officials. Elder lost the February 5, 2008 primary to Heather Steans, a philanthropist, fundraiser, and political contributor who had the support of most Democratic politicians and both daily Chicago newspapers, as well as a much more well-funded campaign.
Despite being outspent 20 to 1, Elder took nearly 40% of the vote. Following her defeat, Elder resumed her work as a health care advocate and consultant and became a contributing writer for numerous publications including, locally, the Chicago Journal, which had purchased the Skyline, Booster, and News-Star local newspapers from the Lerner chain and was elected to the state board of IVI-IPO. She and Steans passed anti-discrimination legislation. They faced opposition from the state's powerful teachers' unions, but overrode an amendatory veto from Governor Quinn to enact legislation that protects the health and civil rights of students with diabetes and other disabilities, known as Care of Students with Diabetes Act (P.A. 96-1485).
Elder continues to develop state-based health policy solutions, contributing to a number of committees, including the Governor’s task force on student health where she has developed recommendations to decrease regulatory obstacles to implementing evidence-based health care practice and ensure students receive life-saving medication in the event of an emergency.
- Chicago Sun-Times, January 31, 2008
- Choices for Illinois Senate
- Lagershausen & Coursey, The Effect of Select State Abortion Policies on State Rates of Abortion, 1975-1994 (1998)
- C. Starks, Girl, interrupted, Chicago Tribune Magazine, March 4, 2007, pp. 13-15.
- Howard Dean speech, Winning Back America, March 18, 2004
- Stewart, Russ. "Forgettable 48th Ward Is Hog in 7th District", December 19, 2007
- Joravsky, Forty-Eighth Ward Follies, Chicago Reader, November 15, 2007
- http://www.suzanneelder.org/ Suzanne Elder for Illinois State Senator official website
- "Elder, Steans discuss gay marriage in Rogers Park" by Matt Simonette, January 23, 2008
- "Gayest Zip Codes in Illinois"
- http://www.dfalink.com/campaign.php?id=2574 Northside DFA
- Chicago Board of Elections results, Democratic primary, 02-05-2008
- Chicago Tribune article on Elder in re emergency student care initiatives