A mayor and the only female candidate in the race, who argues a vote for her is a vote for the average Joe, though with proven political success.
A state senator who touts his legislative experience, and ability to reach across the aisle in a nonpartisan mode not found in Washington, D.C.
And a former state deputy treasurer proffering his many years in public service, and an affinity for immigration and small business issues.
That’s the choice for Democratic voters in the 8th Congressional District.
Villa Park Mayor Deborah Bullwinkel; State Sen. Mike Noland (D-Elgin); and repeat candidate Raja Krishnamoorthi are vying to replace U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth in the northwest suburban district.
Whoever wins on March 15 will face Republican Peter DiCianni, a DuPage County board member, and independent candidate Bill Fraser, a Schaumburg High School teacher, in the Nov. 8 general election.
“I’m running because I think the people of the 8th deserve to have someone who’s very much like them,” says Bullwinkel, 47, elected village president in 2013, after four years as a village trustee in Villa Park.
“As I talk to people, they are growing more and more concerned, and really sick and tired of having the ‘same old same old’ being elected to office,” says the small business owner and former journalist who previously ran two local mental health organizations.
“The political insider, I hear a lot about; the wealthy, I hear a lot about, in terms of what they’re not looking for,” Bullwinkel says. “They’re looking for somebody who is more like them. I can relate to the people because I’m on the front lines with constituents every single day as mayor. I believe I give people a viable choice.”
She and her opponents do not differ much on issues facing the district that’s centered in Schaumburg, and encompasses portions of northwestern Cook County, northern DuPage County and northeast Kane County. Those issues include infrastructure, transportation and education.
Nor do they differ much on larger national issues, supporting job creation; relief of student college loan debt; gun control, and an end to partisan gridlock.
A three-term state senator from Elgin, Noland argues his own life experience more closely mirrors the average Joe in the 8th District, where the median household income is $79,300. Its changing racial make-up now is 29 percent Hispanic; 13 percent Asian; 4 percent black.
“I have the legislative and life experience that not only has worked for the people of this district, but my life experience is most reflective of the people of my district,” says the 55-year-old attorney, first elected to the Legislature in 2007.
“My parents struggled, to be sure, but it’s certainly been a struggle for myself. I’ve had to work for everything that I’ve achieved, and nothing has been given to me, that’s for sure. I believe that struggle is something the people of this district face each and every day,” adds Noland, a U.S. Navy veteran who also served in the U.S. Marine Corps reserve.
The race could be close, with undecided voters the wild card.
A February poll by GBA Strategies of 400 likely Democratic voters showed Krishnamoorthi with 41 percent of the vote; Noland with 27 percent; and Bullwinkel with 5 percent; with 26 percent undecided. But a January poll by Public Policy Polling showed Noland with 22 percent; Krishnamoorthi with 17 percent; Bullwinkel with 11 percent; and 50 percent undecided.
Krishnamoorthi has the most endorsements, but his opponents shrug off their significance.
“From a legislative standpoint I’m tested and have accomplished a great deal. I’ve demonstrated an ability to pass important pieces of legislation,” argues Noland. “I have entered the crucible of debates in the General Assembly. I have stood up to my party leaders. Almost all of the ethics and campaign finance reform has my name on it. I think I offer the people of my district a vision for the future and the region.”
Krishnamoorthi has also raised more money than his opponents, with more than $1 million on hand at year’s end; Noland had just over $64,000; Bullwinkel, $14,000 to promote a candidacy in the home stretch.
And Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg, whose parents emigrated from India, believes his immigrant success story puts him closer to the average Joe.
“The middle class is the rock of our Democracy. The purpose of my candidacy is very simple. How do we get and keep people in the middle class?” says the 42-year-old attorney, engineer, and president of Bolingbrook’s Sivananthan Laboratories.
“When I was a child, unfortunately my parents fell into desperate economic circumstances. But thanks to the generosity and good will of the people of the United States, we were allowed to move into public housing and onto food stamps, until my parents could find a place,” he says.
“They did, in of all places, Peoria. That’s where they entered the middle class. The purpose of my candidacy is to help repeat that story over and over again in the 8th District and all over the country. That mission is something I’ve been trying to accomplish in every position that I’ve held,” he said.
Krishnamoorthi lost the 2012 Democratic primary for the same U.S. House seat to Duckworth; and before that, the 2010 primary for Illinois Comptroller to David Miller, who later lost to Judy Baar Topinka. He’d previously served as a special assistant attorney general in Lisa Madigan’s Public Integrity Unit before becoming state deputy treasurer in 2007.
Duckworth is running for U.S. Senate against former federal and state prosecutor Andrea Zopp and state Sen. Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey) in the primary, with the winner to challenge incumbent Mark Kirk, (R-Ill.).