Anderson’s Bookshop co-owner Becky Anderson has announced that she is running for Congress in Illinois’ 6th District. Anderson, co-owner of Anderson’s Bookshops, has been a Naperville, Ill., city councilwoman for the past two years. But, she said, it is her expertise as an indie bookseller that motivated her to run for Congress.
In joining the race, Anderson is throwing her hat into a crowded ring of about a half-dozen Democratic candidates who are vying for the seat. Anderson and the other Democrats are looking to unseat incumbent U.S. Congressman Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton), who since 2007 has represented the district, which sits in Chicago’s western suburbs, and includes parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, McHenry, and Lake counties.
“To successfully run a bookstore, you have to be deeply involved in your community,” Anderson told PW. “Community bookstores such as Anderson's celebrate diversity, conversation, and the exchange of ideas. The role of my store in the community naturally inspired and prepared me to run for Congress." Anderson also complained about the district's current representation, saying Roskam does not "truly represent" his district because he refuses to "listen to his constituents."
Anderson, who is running under her married name, Becky Anderson Wilkins, is a sixth-generation resident of Naperville, whose family has owned the bookstore since 1875. With her siblings she owns Anderson’s Bookshop, with locations in Naperville, LaGrange, and Downers Grove, as well as an affiliate company, Anderson’s Bookfair Company, in Aurora. Anderson’s was named PW’s Bookstore of the Year in 2011.
Anderson served as president of the board of the American Booksellers Association from 2011-2013 and is the founder of IndieBound Naperville, an alliance of locally owned businesses. She is running on a platform of supporting small businesses; to this extent she is against tax breaks for large corporations. She is also advocating for high-quality childhood education and literacy, women’s reproductive rights, and funding Planned Parenthood.
On Thursday, as the Chicago Tribune broke the news of Anderson’s candidacy, friends and colleagues in the industry received an email from Anderson’s campaign. The email, which announced her candidacy, laid out the reasons she was running; it cited issues she wanted to fight in Congress, such as the Republicans’ attempt to repeal Obamacare and the ruling party's denial of climate change.
Roskam, meanwhile, has been a vocal supporter of the Trump administration’s policies. He has stood by the administration despite opposition from many of his constituents, the majority of whom voted for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. Among other things, Roskam voted with most of his House GOP colleagues to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“As the co-owner of Anderson's Bookshops, a city councilwoman, and a mother, I can tell you, none of this is good for business, none of this is good for government, and none of this is good for families. I'm fed up,” Anderson said. "That's why I'm running for Congress." She added, in an email exchange with PW, that as a small business she has always believed in treating customers like family. “If they’re upset, you listen and work toward a solution. If there’s something they need, you try to find it. And if you’re honest and treat them with respect, the relationships you build will last a lifetime. Now, that may sound simple, but for some reason it’s a philosophy that’s too complicated for Congress. That must change.”
American Booksellers Association head Oren Teicher, speaking for himself and not his organization, expressed his excitement about Anderson's candidacy by calling her "a proven leader." Teicher's comments were echoed by a number of indie booksellers, publishers, and publishers’ reps who contacted PW with the news on Thursday. "[Anderson] has been a national leader in the influential localism movement, and her work ethic, her empathy, and her business acumen would make her an absolutely superb member of Congress,” Teicher said. "Running for Congress is a significant undertaking, but I'm confident she's got what it takes to be successful."