Editorial: 12 endorsements for Illinois House
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Today, we conclude Sun-Times Editorial Board endorsements for the Illinois House of Representatives.
Republican Peter Breen, a lawyer and one-term incumbent, is endorsed because already he is showing that he’s an effective legislator. The former Lombard trustee, who also was acting village president, got a bill signed that forces municipality boards to hold open meetings and open, public votes to spike pensions for retiring public employees. He has succeeded in getting a handful of Democrats on board with his bills to advance his legislation. His opponent, Democrat Steve Swanson, is a retired Lutheran pastor who supports gay rights. Swanson signed up to run after seeing firsthand the decimation of social services because of the budget stalemate.
Martin J. Moylan is looking for a third term in a district made up mostly of Des Plaines, Elk Grove Village and Park Ridge. He is a by-the-numbers Democrat who doesn’t overwhelm with ideas. But he gets a nod from us because he is far more experienced — he also served as mayor and an alderman in Des Plaines — and has a greater grip on issues in Springfield, such as education funding and gun violence prevention, compared with Republican challenger Dan Gott, a retired engineer.
Democratic incumbent Michelle Mussman eked out a victory two years ago by 813 votes over Republican challenger Jim Moynihan. She could be looking at another close race, this time against Republican Jillian Rose Bernas, a trustee for the Schaumburg Township District Library. Mussman gets a definitive nod because, at a time when little is getting done in Springfield, she is getting bills enacted into law. Among the most prominent is a law that holds colleges and universities more accountable for preventing and handling sexual violence. She also knows her stuff on proposed elementary and secondary education funding models, a big deal in a district where most schools would have lost millions under previous bills in the Senate.
If we had more political leaders like Democrat Scott Drury of Highwood, the state’s self-defeating inability to agree on a budget would have long ago disappeared in the rear-view mirror. He’s independent-minded, incurring Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s wrath last year for voting against an override of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a hotly debated labor bill. Last summer, he suggested Republicans and Democrats each draw up plans for a balanced budget, disclose them at the same time and negotiate from there. That was a creative effort to move things forward, and Drury is endorsed. Drury’s Republican opponent in this far north suburban district, lawyer and political newcomer Martin “Marty” Blumenthal of Highland Park, has softened some of the positions he took early in the campaign, but is not yet ready for the Springfield stage.
We give an enthusiastic nod to incumbent Carol Sente, a thoughtful, fiscally conservative Democrat who has served since 2009. We like that she’s independent-minded, voting last spring against powerful Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan’s state budget that was $7 billion out of balance. Sente says Madigan at times calls her into his office — and here she quotes Madigan — “to take her to the woodshed” when they disagree. But she describes respectful dialogue between her and Madigan and a few similar meetings with Gov. Bruce Rauner. Sente is the right person to be part of bipartisan compromise on the budget. She prides herself in being accessible to constituents with frequent coffee shop talks in this district that covers parts of central Lake County and the northwest suburbs. She is endorsed over Mundelein Trustee Dawn Abernathy.
Democrat Rita Mayfield of Waukegan led the effort for the first stopgap bill to fund higher education. Gov. Bruce Rauner didn’t sign it, but it was a bipartisan effort and helped lead to a successful stopgap measure later on. She also introduced legislation to crack down on straw purchasers of guns and those who seem to “lose” too many firearms. On the environment, she is a strong voice against allowing users to take water outside the Great Lakes basin. She is endorsed. Her opponent in this far north suburban district is Republican Robert L. Ochsner of Waukegan, a Purple Heart Army Special Forces retired veteran whose son was killed by an IED in Afghanistan. This is Ochsner’s first run for political office.
In 2014, Republican incumbent Sheri Jesiel handily beat a Democratic challenger 58 percent to 42 percent but her opponent this year, Democrat Nick Ciko, says he has a better chance because younger, less conservative folks are moving into this district that includes Gurnee, Zion and Antioch. Ciko, a teacher and board member for Community High School District 117 based in Lake Villa, has an admirable goal to improve education, but we weren’t sold on his proposal to generate revenue mainly by giving out generous corporate tax breaks. To that end, Jesiel also is in denial about the state’s dire straits: She has said the state doesn’t necessarily need new revenue sources and needs to be more business friendly. Jesiel, who declined to participate in the endorsement process, appears to have a clearer picture of the pension mess. An accountant and former retirement plan administrator, she could play a role in bipartisan compromise if given the chance. We endorse Jesiel.
In 2014, Democrat Sam Yingling won his second term by beating Republican Rod Drobinski by 1,121 votes. Now we have a rematch. Both candidates are fiscal conservatives who say Lake County residents cannot bear additional property tax increases. Yingling, a former township supervisor, is pushing government consolidation bills after seeing “firsthand the redundancy of all of these units of government,” he said in his Sun-Times questionnaire. Both candidates have strong resumes. Neither candidate came in for an interview, and we don’t see an indication that one is clearly preferable to the other. No endorsement.
We endorse Democrat John M. Bartman, a fiscal conservative who supports labor and runs his family’s 850-acre corn, soybean and wheat farm in Marengo. For the last 10 years, Bartman has been a director for the McHenry County Farm Bureau board and previously served as the McHenry County Democratic Party chairman. He would be an important voice for agriculture in northern Illinois. From a previous stint working with the Illinois Department of Transportation, he also has ideas worth listening to about biofuels. He is supported by outgoing Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat who won his seat by comfortable margins for most of his 16-year career. Bartman is our pick over Republican Steven Reick, a tax and real estate attorney.
As a two-term East Dundee village trustee, Republican Allen Skillicorn says he has learned he can’t make progress by charging ahead like a bull in a china shop. We appreciate his efforts to work cooperatively behind the scenes with other lawmakers and hold the line on property taxes, but our endorsement for this open seat in this far northwest suburban district goes to Democrat Nancy Zettler of Algonquin, a retired lawyer running for her first elective office who has a firm grasp on a wide range of issues. She’s a strong advocate of funding for public higher education, would support comprehensive laws to reduce gun violence and wants a statewide increase in the minimum wage.
David Allen Welter, who was appointed to this seat in July, is one of those Downstate Republican wunderkinds who pop up once in a while. He was elected to the Grundy County Board in 2010 at age 19 and now serves as chairman. He’s in a rush. When a person is so new to the scene, though — at least outside Grundy County — you’d like to talk with him before offering support, and Welter declined even to fill out a questionnaire. Too bad. His Democratic opponent, registered nurse Martha J. Shugart, is running for an excellent reason — to do good for others. She once served on the Morris City Council, but she is not well informed on key issues facing the state. No endorsement.
Republican Anthony Airdo is a well-meaning non-politician, but we encourage him to dive more deeply into the complexities of the state’s pressing issues before offering himself as a candidate in a future race. We endorse two-term incumbent Democrat Kathleen Willis of Addison in this west suburban district. A former Addison Elementary District 4 school board member, she has made a priority over the past four years of supporting education and working to reduce gun violence. She has introduced legislation to allow family members of people in crisis to petition the courts to temporarily remove firearms from their homes and suspend their Firearm Owner’s Identification card. She also is pushing a bill to require the state licensing of gun dealers.
Democrat Greg Hose, a lawyer and member of the Downers Grove Village Council, is thoughtful and willing to work with lawmakers of both parties. He says government in Springfield is “off the rails” and that the only answer is to put aside extreme partisanship. He also wants to hold the line on property taxes, reform property tax caps and do a better job of keeping guns out of the hands of those who are not supposed to have them. He wants to cut costs where possible and invest in education. He gets our nod. His opponent — Republican David S. Olsen of Downers Grove, a member of the College of DuPage board — was appointed in July to fill out the term of ex-Rep. Ron Sandack in this west suburban district.
Our choice is Democrat Stephanie A. Kifowit of Oswego, a former Marine and a member of the Aurora City Council for 9½ years. Kifowit has been effective in her 3½ years in the Illinois House and has a broad understanding of the issues. As one of six veterans in the House, she has devoted much of her time to veterans’ issues. She also grasps the risks of continued significant funding cuts to public colleges and universities. She has voted to freeze property taxes and voted against the most recent Democratic budget, which was unbalanced because it did not identify new revenue. Her Republican opponent in this far west suburban district is small business owner Mike Strick of Naperville.