Today, the Sun-Times Editorial Board offers its endorsements in 10 competitive Illinois Senate races in the Chicago area.
You can read our previous endorsements in the races for governor, Congress, Illinois comptroller, Illinois attorney general, Illinois secretary of state, Illinois treasurer, Cook County assessor and Cook County Board of Commissioners in the Sun-Times 2018 Illinois Voting Guide. You also will find Sun-Times candidate questionnaires, video introductions, news stories, information about candidates’ campaign finances, and links to their websites and Facebook pages.
Laura Fine in the 9th District
After her husband’s arm was amputated because of an injury in a car accident, Laura Fine had to fight with insurance companies to get hospital bills paid. She studied Illinois’ complex insurance laws and passed the state’s insurance exam. Fine, of Glenview, took that expertise to the Illinois House of Representatives, where she has served for nearly six years.
Last year, she sponsored a law to protect people with pre-existing medical conditions. “Every day you feel like, ‘OK what can we do to protect people in Illinois from really what’s going on in the federal government,’” she told the Sun-Times Editorial Board of President Trump’s attempts to weaken the nation’s health care laws.
Fine, a Democrat, wants to move up to an open seat in state Senate, and we endorse her over Joan McCarthy Lasonde of Wilmette. Fine is in tune with the people of this district, including those who are troubled by the Amtrak Hiawatha expansion project in Glenview and other northern suburbs. The project “would be detrimental to the environment and public safety,” she wrote in her questionnaire.
Michael G. Connelly in the 21st District
Democrat Laura Ellman of Naperville brings some good ideas to this race, but in a close call we endorse Republican incumbent Michael G. Connelly of Lisle because of his extensive experience as a state representative, Lisle trustee and state senator. He has held this seat since 2012.
Connelly, a former Cook County prosecutor, has worked on civil forfeiture and criminal justice reform. He also supports business regulatory reform to help Illinois lure new big and small companies, and he believes insurance companies should be allowed to sell policies across state borders as an alternative to the Affordable Care Act. He supported employee buyouts to help address the state’s underfunded pensions and believes a newly booming Illinois economy would solve the rest of the state’s financial problems.
We don’t agree with all of Connelly’s views, but they are not out of line in the 21st District, and they are held by a seasoned legislator.
Seth Lewis in the 23rd District
Experience in politics is valuable, but not everything. There is often greater value, as it should be, in a candidate’s professional experience in the private sector.
With that in mind, we endorse Republican businessman Seth Lewis of Bartlett for state senate in this northern DuPage County district.
This race is a rematch from 2016 between Lewis and the Democratic incumbent, Thomas Cullerton, the former president of Villa Park who first was elected to the Senate in 2012.
We don’t agree with Lewis on certain key issues, such as his opposition to a graduated state income tax, but we do agree that Illinois must do more to attract good-paying jobs. Lewis, an industrial engineer by training, once was vice president of a small business in Melrose Park, and now he is a State Farm insurance agent. In Springfield, he says, he wants to work across party lines to craft practical, non-ideological solutions to get Illinois back on track.
Chris Nybo in the 24th District
When a Republican takes a stand for saner gun laws, which takes courage even in moderately Republican suburban districts, we applaud him. And when he does so in a way that minimizes any substantial burden on small businesses, true to his party’s priorities, we respect his negotiating skills.
State Sen. Chris Nybo of Elmhurst did just that earlier this year when he worked with Democrat Sen. Don Harmon to produce a bill creating a state certification for gun shops. The aim of the bill, which Gov. Bruce Rauner unfortunately has vowed to veto, is to hold careless and corrupt gun dealers accountable while respecting Second Amendment rights.
We endorse Chris Nybo over Democrat Suzanne “Suzy” Glowiak, an engineer and former Western Springs trustee.
Tom Georges in the 26th District
Tom Georges of Mundelein spent 31 years in the Army, achieving the rank of colonel. Though a Democrat, he credits that experience with shaping him as a fiscal conservative.
“As a military officer, I was required to stay within my means,” he said in a meeting with the Sun-Times Editorial Board. “I had to prioritize. I had to set my goals, set my objectives and stay within the financial means that I was given.”
Socially, though, Georges describes himself as progressive. He vows to be a strong supporter of women’s rights and the rights of LGBTQ people. That’s what separates him sharply from incumbent Dan McConchie, a conservative Republican from Hawthorn Woods.
Georges is endorsed.
Ann Gillespie in the 27th District
Democrat Ann Gillespie, an Arlington Heights lawyer and community organizer, promises to be the kind of motivated lawmaker Springfield sorely needs to find answers to problems that others have let fester for too long.
As a lawyer, Gillespie specialized in health care issues. As a community organizer, she worked for a higher state minimum wage and mandatory sick leave for all workers. As a legislator, Gillespie says, she would focus on education and health care issues. She also favors a graduated state income tax and a broadening of the sales tax to include services so as to balance the state’s budget. She is endorsed.
Incumbent Republican state Sen. Tom Rooney, a former Rolling Meadows mayor, also is running.
Julie Morrison in the 29th District
Julie A. Morrison, an experienced and practical legislator from Deerfield, has our endorsement for a third term representing the north suburban 29th District.
Morrison has been a strong proponent of property tax relief, commonsense gun laws, and health and human services. Her track record on that front includes sponsoring “Tobacco 21,” the bill (later vetoed by Gov. Rauner) to combat teen smoking by raising the statewide age to purchase cigarettes, vaping devices and other tobacco products to 21.
Morrison, a former Republican, also has been willing to go against the Democratic grain. She was one of only two Democrats to vote against the state income tax increase last year, complaining that it wasn’t tied to property tax relief. If one-party rule comes to Springfield, legislators with an independent streak will be a valuable commodity.
Morrison is endorsed over Republican challenger Barrett Davie, an entrepreneur from Lake Forest.
Terry Link in the 30th District
As Assistant Majority Leader in the Senate, Sen. Terry Link was charged with gathering votes in the chamber for the “grand bargain” budget negotiated in 2017 by Senate President John Cullerton and then-Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno to end two years of impasse.
The Senate failed to approve the grand bargain, but Link, a Democrat from Vernon Hills, is convinced the effort was worthwhile. “It led to getting a budget done” later that summer, he says, “and getting some smart-minded moderate Republicans to vote with us on that.”
Link has been a state senator since 1997. Experience matters. We endorse him over Republican Soojae Lee, a lawyer from Buffalo Grove.
Nancy Zettler in the 33rd District
If residents of the 33rd District want a state senator who will vigorously pursue causes that matter to them, we recommend Democrat Nancy Zettler of Algonquin. We endorse her over former St. Charles Mayor Donald DeWitte, a Republican who was appointed to this seat in the summer.
Zettler, a retired lawyer, has been particularly strong in fighting for the needs of schoolchildren. In 2006, she played a leading role in helping Community Unit School District 300 — which includes schools in Carpentersville, Algonquin and Hampshire — pass two referenda to pull the district out of a financial crisis. She later lobbied lawmakers to take another look at the tax breaks given to Sears Holdings Corporation in Hoffman Estates — tax dollars that would have benefited schools.
“We need to stop diverting tax dollars to special interests from funds allocated for schools, good roads and first responders,” Zettler wrote in her questionnaire. “We can’t just give these dollars away because politicians in Springfield want to hold on to power and cater to the special interests that fund their campaigns.”
Bridget M. Fitzgerald in the 41st District
We predict Fitzgerald, the Western Springs village clerk, will make an immediate impact in Springfield. She has experience working at the state level, as well — as something of a consumer advocate — assisting the state treasurer in making sure that unclaimed property made its way back to the rightful owners.
Fitzgerald vows to protect people when it comes to environmental and labor matters, not bowing to corporate interests. That promise should go a long way with the people of the 41st District. They were hit hard over the summer by a federal report that linked a high cancer risk for people of southeast DuPage County to the pollution from Sterigenics International, a company that sterilizes medical equipment.
Fitzgerald says she’s eager to work with Republicans in Springfield. “I grew up in a bipartisan home,” she says. Her mother is a Democrat and her father a Republican. We like her mindset. It suits a district that includes Burr Ridge, Lemont and Downers Grove.
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Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.