Democrat aiming to challenge Kinzinger
LaSalle Co. social worker, 42, working to qualify for spot on November ballot
|Wanda Rohl of Ottawa talks with Michael Ortiz of Dixon Tuesday afternoon outside of Books on First in Dixon. Rohl, a Democrat, is getting ready to challenge U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger in the 16th District. (Philip Marruffofirstname.lastname@example.org)|
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DIXON – Wanda Rohl, a hospice worker from outside of Ottawa, is attempting a run for the 16th Congressional District seat.
The Democrat said she is unhappy with the leadership of U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteno, who unseated Rep. Don Manzullo, R-Egan, in the April Republican primary. The newly redrawn 16th District now includes all of Lee County.
“Nine years ago, when I became a paraplegic, I ended up in the social safety net,” Rohl said. “Prior to that, I had a full-time job and a part-time job, I had private health insurance, I had just gotten engaged to be married, and all of a sudden my life changed.
“Had it not been for those programs, my family would have been homeless, and I most likely would have been dead.”
Before her name can be included on the ballot, Rohl must get the nod from a simple majority of Democratic county chairmen in the district’s 14 counties. The simple majority is based on voting populations.
She says she so far has received support from Ogle, Lee, Winnebago, LaSalle, Bureau, Grundy and DeKalb counties.
She also needs petitions bearing the signatures of 650 voters before she can officially launch a congressional campaign. The Democrats, who did not have a candidate run in the primary, have until June 4 to caucus in a candidate.
Kinzinger spokeswoman Brook Hougesen declined to comment on Rohl’s potential candidacy.
Rohl, 41, is a licensed social worker and a certified substance abuse counselor. Born in Mendota, she has lived in LaSalle County her entire life. She works for Passages Hospice. From its office in Rockford, she travels around the area visiting patients.
Rohl said federal programs helped her obtain a master’s degree and employment as a licensed social worker. She used federal Pell Grants, which are given based on income, and scholarships to help pay for her education.
“That kind of woke me up to our local politics of what our government, our representative, was and was not doing,” she said. “He’s voted very party line. Very much the only thing that he cares about is the deficit, and the deficit is important, but not at the expense of everything else.”
Rohl, who decided to run 2 months ago, said she is well aware of the challenges that lie ahead of her in the heavily Republican district. She plans to travel around the district to meet voters and get her name known.
“I have a really good, strong grassroots organization of more than 200 volunteers. The biggest logistic that we have to get over is money, because he has a lot, and being a new person to this, I don’t have any.”
Rohl, who was injured in an ATV accident, uses a wheelchair. Her disability is an issue only if she allows it to be, she said.
“I’ve been asked a hundred different times: ‘Why would you want to do this? This is crazy,’” she said. “I’m doing this for a totally different reason, because I think our voices need to be heard. It takes very common people doing uncommon things to change how we see things in the world.
“For me, I’m just a common mom, wife, social worker, who said, ‘We’re moving in the wrong direction and we can do this better.’”
Political party: Democrat.
Family: Husband, Jay Rohl, 39; three children, Mason Kember, 20; Austin Kember, 18, and Tyler Rohl, 11.
Education: Associate degree from Illinois Valley Community College; bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from Aurora University.
Occupation: Licensed social worker with Passages Hospice.
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