A Naperville nurse and health policy expert is making her first bid for elected office by running for Congress next year in the 14th District.
Lauren Underwood, 30, announced plans Wednesday to run as a Democrat for the seat held by Republican Randy Hultgren of Plano. She's the fifth Democrat to enter the race.
Underwood said she wants to protect health care access, public school excellence and availability of "strong jobs" across the 14th District, which stretches from the Wisconsin border to south of I-80 and includes parts of DuPage, DeKalb, Lake, Kane, Kendall, McHenry and Will counties.
As a registered nurse, Underwood has held positions with the federal government in Washington, D.C., conducting clinical research at the National Institutes of Health and serving as a senior adviser in the Department of Health and Human Services during former president Barack Obama's administration.
"I understand how our federal government works," she said. "I am skilled and able to get things done."
After her work in the nation's capitol, Underwood returned to Naperville, where she grew up and graduated from Neuqua Valley High School. She said she wants to protect the "gems" of public education, such as her alma mater, that prepare suburban students for successful careers.
Underwood now works in Chicago for a Medicaid managed-care plan and teaches future nurse practitioners through the Georgetown University online master's program. She has degrees from the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University.
Congress, Underwood says, has a lot of lawyers and business people, but not a lot of professionals like her.
"Let's add a different voice to the mix," she said.
As Underwood seeks her first elected office, she said the run shows she has the courage to step up and "be a champion for the 14th."
Also seeking the Democratic nomination are Jim Walz, who lost to Hultgren last year; Victor Swanson, a high school teacher and Batavia resident; Matt Brolley, the Montgomery village president; and George Weber, a retired chemical engineer.