Koziana, an English teacher at Curie High School on Chicago’s Southwest Side, was always a Cinderella candidate. Like St. Mary’s College, which has gone a lot farther in the NCAA tournament than anyone expected, Koziana was just glad to make the Sweet 17, as the list of lieutenant governor finalists is known.
“I don’t have the funds like I understand Scott Lee Cohen put in at least [two] million. I don’t have that kind of money. To raise that, right now I’m a teacher, a mother to take that time away was impossible,” she says.
Instead, Koziana made it to through the tourney on the strength of her gutsy resume. She grew up in Tinley Park, daughter of a pipefitter and a secretary, before joining the Navy at 17 and serving as a corpsman on the U.S.S. Forrestal. After that, she became the first person in her family to graduate from college (politicians love to say that), then went on to earn a law degree from John Marshall College.
Koziana spent several years as a volunteer attorney with Cabrini-Green Legal Aid, working with teenagers charged with serious crimes. It dawned on her that maybe she should be working with kids full time, so she got a master’s degree in education, and went into teaching. Her students have been telling her, “We’re going to Springfield with you.”
Last weekend, Koziana was interviewed at the Hyatt Regency by a panel that included House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton. They liked Koziana enough to advance her out of the Chicago regional.
Koziana was glad to see Simon chosen, because it proved that the party hadn’t decided in advance on state Sen. Susan Garrett.
“It shows that there is process,” Koziana says. “About two days before the interview, it was all about Susan Garrett, just like a horse-and-pony show. I’m glad to see the conversation was still going on.”
And even though Simon owes her political career to family connections, Koziana doesn’t feel like she’s an average citizen who was ignored in favor of party insiders. She feels like an average citizen who got a chance to connect with party insiders. The exposure can only help her political ambitions.
“It’s been my plan for awhile to enter this political arena,” Koziana says. “I’ve always wanted to be a policy-maker, and this opportunity arose. What an amazing opportunity, and I jumped in.”