Kent-raised Democrat runs for US Congress in Chicago

Ray Padilla

Benjamin Thomas Wolf, 42, grew up in Kent, Ohio. He went to elementary, middle, high school and college here — something he believes shaped him into the person he is today.

“Being from the midwest is incredibly important to me — it’s one the things I talk about the most because we have basic core values such as education and hard work that are instilled in us at very young age,” Wolf said.

Wolf plans to take his values to the House of Representatives: He is running for congress in Illinois’s 5th District — Chicago.

The Kent State alumni will campaign against Rep. Mike Quigley (D), 58, this year and through the Illinois primary in March 2018. Quigley has been in the seat since April 2009 and his election to congress was an opportunity to take his reform-minded politics to Washington, per his website.

Wolf’s views include universal health care for everyone, free tuition and loan repayment and marijuana legalization. With these ideals, he wants to make changes he said he believes the people of Chicago are looking for.

During college, Wolf participated in the Washington Program in National Issues, a full 15-week academic program offered each spring to a select group of juniors and seniors who are interested in politics and national policy issues.

“(Students) are doing internships in D.C., so it’s a professional work experience for them,” said Richard Robyn, director of the Washington program and associate professor at Kent State. “Interning inside — outside of government, all over Washington D.C.”

Upon completing the program, the FBI recruited Wolf. After graduating from the FBI Academy, he worked for the National Security Division where his focus was anti-terrorism, intelligence and international security.

“I spent my entire professional career protecting and defending other people,” Wolf said. “And going to the House of Representatives — it’s a chance to do that on a higher level.”

After working for the bureau, Wolf became an executive advisor and earned a commission in the Foreign Service while working in the U.S. Department of State. Later, Wolf volunteered and served the country in multiple other forms.

“I was a federal agent, I was a diplomat, I worked in human rights in Africa, I raised my children in Africa,” Wolf listed. “I was in Iraq multiple times — I sacrificed and served my country and my people, and this is a chance to then go to Washington D.C. and represent the interest of those people.”

Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala said Wolf is an interesting person and has a lot of history, which gives Wolf a foundation to become a great politician to serve the public.

Growing up in Northeast Ohio, Fiala and Wolf lived in the same neighborhood where Fiala would coach little league baseball for Wolf’s team. This is where a close friendship developed between the two families. When the candidate for congress visits Kent, he still takes the time to stop by the mayor’s house for an update.

Fiala said Wolf is a new beginning for Chicago.

“Everything I’ve seen that young lad do … he puts his heart into it,” Fiala said. “We’re all proud of him, those of us that knew him, we’re all proud of him, where he went. This guy, if he gets in and takes this to Washington, that’s a good change in Washington.”

Robyn lectures to students, stating generations have to realize their vote matters. He said most people who go to the polls are older and are looking for someone who represents their benefits like with social security because they are reaching retirement.

“I think students need to be aware in general about what’s going on with politics,” Robyn said. “If they are not interested in politics at all, they should at least be aware that politics is interested in them — the government is interested in them. And if you’re not aware of what’s happening, then you could be on the losing end with taxes or with people who don’t represent your interest at all.”

Wolf said one of the reasons he is running for congress is because he believes it is time for his generation to have a say in Washington. Many of the people who are working for the House of Representatives are significantly older than him, and he said it is important to have representatives who share similar interest with the majority of the U.S. population.

“I am a strong candidate. I have a strong background,” Wolf said. “My professionalism, my experience (and) my education are all top-tier, which again make me a strong candidate for the United States Congress.”

Ray Padilla is the academics reporter. Contact him at [email protected].