Democratic candidate for Illinois House, 25th District: Grace Chan McKibben

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Grace Chan McKibben, Illinois House 25th district Democratic primary candidate. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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On Jan. 25, Grace Chan McKibben appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked her why she’s running for the Illinois House of Representatives in the 25th District:

My name is Grace Chan McKibben. I have lived in the 25th District for over 30 years and I have worked in higher education as the associate dean of students at the University of Chicago previously, as well as in government as chief of staff of the Illinois Department of Employment Security and most recently I’ve worked in nonprofits in a variety of different social services.

My top three priorities are to ensure there is adequate funding for public education and having an elected school board and also adequate funding for social services for the needy community. And finally, to have a budget that makes sense for Illinois.

My top cause is definitely education. I believe in public education and funding public education K through 12 as well as public universities.

The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates seeking nominations for the Illinois House of Representatives a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois. Grace Chan McKibben submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:

TOPIC: Top priorities

QUESTION: Please explain what your specific cause or causes will be. Please avoid a generic topic or issue in your answer.

ANSWER: Local Control of Education for Chicago is long overdue, and facilitating this will be a top priority. Chicago is the only municipality in Illinois which lacks an elected school board, and as a a proud parent of four former public school children, it is tough to see this as anything besides a paternalistic and racist affront. Local control will not by itself overcome the austerity of the Rauner agenda but Chicago’s parents and students should have the right to self determination.

Progressive Income Tax: Illinois’ income tax system is regressive, unfair and arcane. In a national environment in which Republicans have used the tax system to aggravate, rather than alleviate income inequality, the need for Illinois Democrats to summon the sustained political will to enact a progressive income tax is of critical importance. Without the ability to raise revenue in a predictable, moral and targeted manner, Illinois’s education, social services, and pension systems will continue to face chronic shortfalls.

Protecting Social Services and Education: Illinois’ safety net, and other critical state assets such as our university and K-12 education systems suffered terrible and irreparable harm waiting for a budget. While the impasse is mercifully over, organizations that provide social services have already cut back on staff and services during the years without money and are unable to meet the needs of their communities. Moving forward, we need a state budget that adequately provides for the needs of our schools and protects our vulnerable populations, particularly seniors and the disabled.

Grace Chan McKibben

Running for: Illinois House of Representatives 25th district

Political/civic background: I have not held any elected positions. Appointed positions include: Chief of Staff, Illinois Department of Employment Security, State of Illinois Asian American Employment Plan Advisory Council, State of Illinois Language Access to Government Services Advisory Committee, Illinois Health Data Dissemination Initiative Advisory Committee.

I am also on the board of the Illinois ACLU, National ACLU, OMNIA (previously known as Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education), Leadership Greater Chicago’s Fellowship Association, Le Cantanti di Chicago, and on the deacon board for Ellis Avenue Church. I previously chaired both the Chinatown and Bridgeport Census Committees, co-founded the Chinatown Pro-Bono Legal Clinic, previously served on The Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, Inc (CEDA).

Occupation: Current: Development Director, Indo-American Center, Acting Executive Director, Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. President, Starinia Group. Past: Director of Development and Communications, Common Cause Illinois, Director of Human Resources and Information Technology, SOS Children’s Villages Illinois, Deputy Director, Chinese American Service League, Vice President, LaSalle Bank, Chief of Staff, Illinois Department of Employment Security, Associate Dean of Students in the University/Director of Student Health Affairs, University of Chicago, College Adviser and Associate Director of Orientation, University of Chicago

Education: B.A. Linguistics (with second major in Sociology), University of Chicago; M.A. Linguistics, University of Chicago; M.B.A., Keller Graduate School of Management

Campaign website:

TOPIC: Top district needs

QUESTION: Please list three district-specific needs that will be your priorities. This could be a project that is needed in your district, or a rule that needs to be changed, or some federal matter that has been ignored.

ANSWER: While education, state budget, and social services are my general priorities, there are several areas of need in the district that are apparent.

Pediatric healthcare: Because of the southeastern part of the 25th District’s industrial past, our rates of childhood asthma are some of the highest in the state. I will work with the Illinois Department of Public Health as well as area hospitals and clinics to ensure that there are primary care and urgent care services that are accessible to families. I will support or lead legislation that will increase access to healthcare for families.

Economic development: The district is very diverse economically. While many affluent individuals in multi-million dollar mansions live in the district, there are many more families that have not benefited from economic growth in decades. Supporting small business development by providing tax incentives to small business, especially when they hire within the district, and creating job training and employment counseling programs across the district are important priorities.

Gun Violence: The 25th District has a gun violence problem that must be addressed in a comprehensive way which does not contribute to mass incarceration. That means sensible gun laws, combined with increased investments in opportunities for youth education and employment.

TOPIC: Pension debt

QUESTION: In 2017, Illinois’ unfunded pension liability ballooned to at least $130 billion. Do you support re-amortizing this debt? Please explain your answer. And what is your position on a constitutional amendment that would reduce the liability of the pension debt?

ANSWER: Illinois must re-amortize its debt to be on a realistic and fiscally sound schedule. A constitutional amendment tying a new progressive income tax to a more realistic amortization schedule is one reasonable alternative. Breaking our obligations to those who are already on the pension system is not acceptable.


TOPIC: Minimum wage

QUESTION: Cook County and Chicago are on their way to paying a $13 hourly minimum wage. Many suburbs in the county, however, have opted out of the wage increase. Should Illinois raise its minimum wage from $8.25 an hour? Please explain. And if you favor an increase in the state minimum wage, what should it be?

ANSWER: I am a strong proponent of the fight for $15, to raise the minimum wage across the state to $15. This should be raised gradually with the higher living costs areas having the minimum wage raised first.

TOPIC: Marijuana

QUESTION: Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.

ANSWER: I fully support legalization of recreational marijuana because prohibition has been a humanitarian and financial disaster. Many municipalities including Chicago have enacted de jure or de facto decriminalization. This arrangement, while more compassionate than hardline enforcement creates a system in which the local and state government receive no benefit from consumption. Fully legalizing recreational marijuana will provide our cities and state with a valuable revenue stream, as well as the ability to regulate use and distribution.

TOPIC: Casinos

QUESTION: Would you support more casinos in Illinois, including in Chicago. What about racinos? Please explain.

ANSWER: I don’t believe that Illinois needs more casinos, which often function as a regressive tax targeting our most vulnerable citizens.

Bookmark the Sun-Times 2018 Illinois Primary Voting Guide

TOPIC: Property tax freeze

QUESTION: A property tax freeze in Illinois has been proposed frequently since Gov. Bruce Rauner took office. What’s your position? If you favor a freeze, how many years should it last? Should the freeze exclude property tax increases to service the debt, make pension payments or cover the cost of public safety? Again, please explain.

ANSWER: I cannot support a property tax freeze because of the detrimental effect such a freeze would likely have on K-12 education. I could perhaps support a temporary freeze in the event of a large increase in state or Federal aid for education, but this is a question of priorities and I believe that prioritizing education over property tax relief is logical.

TOPIC: School funding

QUESTION: A revised school funding formula was approved this year by the Legislature and the governor, but a bipartisan commission has concluded that billions more dollars are needed to achieve sufficient and equitable funding. Should Illinois spend more on schools, and where would the money come from?

ANSWER: While the revised school funding formula does begin to prioritize schools in higher need, the school funding formula in general still relies too heavily on property taxes. We should continue to shift school funding support to an income tax base.

TOPIC: Opioids

QUESTION: How can the Legislature best address the problem of opioid abuse and addiction? Please cite specific laws you have supported or would support.

ANSWER: First, I feel it’s important for elected officials to provide leadership in informing the public that addiction is a disease as opposed to a moral failing. I believe that this attitude, among other factors has created a stigma around medication assisted treatment for opioids. These treatments, such as suboxone, save lives, but many people believe (falsely) that patients simply trade one addiction for another. Illinois must expand the availability of medication assisted treatment, particularly outside the Chicagoland area, where the problem is acute and MAT’s are few and far between. I strongly support 2015’s PA99-0480 which required law enforcement officers to carry opioid antagonists, such as Narcan. I would be supportive of additional funds for Narcan training for (among others) non first responders.


QUESTION: Do you support a state ban on gun silencers? Please explain.

ANSWER: Yes. I truly cannot envision a scenario in which silencers have a positive effect on public safety nor do I feel there is a second amendment right to accessories of this nature.

QUESTION: Should all gun dealers in Illinois be licensed by the state? Please explain.

ANSWER: Yes. Licensing and robust oversight of all gun dealers (including a closure of the private sellers/gun show loopholes) would be very positive, though insufficient steps. Most guns used to commit crimes in Illinois are imported from our neighbors with more lax gun laws.

QUESTION: Should family members be empowered to petition courts for the temporary removal of guns from emotionally or mentally disturbed people who may be a danger to themselves or others? Please explain.

ANSWER: Yes. I feel very strongly about this point, because of my experience as an advocate for domestic violence survivors. It is an act of inhumanity to subject family members to the constant, crushing anxiety of worrying that their unstable family members will harm themselves or others. According to

Everytown for Gun Safety’ 45% of female homicide victims in the US are killed by domestic partners.

TOPIC: Medicaid

QUESTION: What would you do to ensure the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program? Do you support continued Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act? Should the state continue on a path toward managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries? Should everyone be permitted to buy into Medicaid?

ANSWER: Medicaid expansion is perhaps the greatest accomplishment of President Obama’s administration and with the federal government continuing to pay 90% of the expansion costs, it remains a great deal for states. I support continuing to move towards managed care, less for its ability to cut costs and more for the fact that it incentivizes holistic and strategic treatment for patients, as opposed to a fee for services model which creates perverse incentives.

TOPIC: College student exodus

QUESTION: Illinois is one of the largest exporters of college students in the country. What would you do to encourage the best and brightest young people in Illinois to attend college here at home? Does Illinois have too many state universities, as some have argued?

ANSWER: The obvious reason for the exodus would seem to be the fact that Illinois students don’t get a particularly good deal on in state tuition. According to the college board the average public four year tuition and fees for in state students amount to $13,621 per year. Only Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are more expensive. This seems to me like a far more likely explanation for the exodus of students than the number of state universities. Increasing need-based aid such as MAP grants for students would also help retain our brightest students in-state.

TOPIC: Gov. Rauner

QUESTION: Please list three of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s principles, or decisions he has made, with which you agree. Also please list three of the governor’s principles, or decisions he has made, with which you disagree.

ANSWER: I do not agree with Gov. Rauner’s austerity budgeting, which hurts seniors, children, low-income, and immigrant families the most. However, there are several bills he signed this year, which I am supportive of and have advocated for.

HB 40, which provides state health insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortions. As a board member of the ACLU and strong supporter of a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices, I believe that no woman should be prevented from making healthcare and reproductive choices based on income.

HB 303, which offers protections for property owners and imposes new restrictions on government seeking to retain seized property, is another bill that the ACLU strongly supported. While civil asset forfeiture has increased revenue for law enforcement units, it is often the case that innocent people end up losing their property. Shifting the burden of proof to the government to show that it is entitled to take the property instead of requiring the property owner to prove they are entitled to keep it makes it more fair for the people.

SB 1933, the Automatic Voter Registration Bill, makes Illinois the tenth state to join the automatic voter registration and adds a potential one million voters to the voter rolls. This is legislation that I helped advocate for when I worked at Common Cause Illinois. Under Automatic Voter Registration, eligible citizens who visit the Department of Motor Vehicles in the Secretary of State’s office and several other state agencies would be automatically registered to vote unless they opt out.

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