Editorial: 13 endorsements for the Illinois House
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Today, we offer Sun-Times Editorial Board endorsements for 13 Chicago-area races for the Illinois House of Representatives, with more to come in Tuesday’s newspaper.
You might think the wife of 28th Ward Chicago Ald. Jason Ervin would have a firm grip on the important issues facing Illinois, but Democrat Melissa Conyears offers only vague prescriptions for the most pressing problems. She’s likely to win in this heavily Democratic West and Near Northwest Side district, but we endorse her Republican opponent, lawyer Mark Spognardi, hoping his first-time candidacy will encourage the slating of well-prepared hopefuls in the future. We can’t agree with Spognardi’s airy dismissal of efforts to pass laws to reduce gun violence, but we share his goal of encouraging compromise between the two parties and making Illinois an economic powerhouse once again. He also would support new temporary taxes to get the state out of its fiscal mess.
Attorney Ann Williams, the Democratic incumbent, is our pick for this North Side district because she remains strong on women’s issues, gun violence prevention and privacy issues related to snooping by law enforcement. In a meeting with the Sun-Times Editorial Board, Republican challenger Gary Mandell, an accountant and financial planner, exposed a weakness for Williams: unfamiliarity with basic aspects of worker’s compensation laws. We hope she works on that; she serves on a worker’s compensation subcommittee.
Restaurant owners might know Democrat Sara Feigenholtz because she led a business-friendly effort to bring back Happy Hour in Illinois. We endorse her because she champions health-care issues, including getting families improved access to care for mentally ill children. Feigenholtz, in office since 1995, remains very much in tune with her North Side district. We give her an enthusiastic nod over Republican Gene Witt, a financial adviser.
Last year, Democrat Kelly M. Cassidy voted with the NRA on a gun bill in hopes of creating some middle ground in the General Assembly that might lead to laws curbing the epidemic of gun violence. So far, she has little to show for her effort, but her vote and accompanying passionate speech on the floor of the House portray a lawmaker who is willing to build bridges with political opponents for important goals, something that’s all too rare in Springfield. Cassidy also supports a statewide increase in the minimum wage, works to help people with criminal records get jobs and believes a graduated income tax is a necessary piece of solving the state’s financial problems. Independent Arthur Noah Siegel is Cassidy’s opponent in this north lakefront district.
Rep. John D’Amico wants to make our roads safer. As the Democratic representative from this Northwest Side and suburban district, he has been a force behind the creation of a graduated driver’s license, in which driving privileges are phased in at different ages. He also sponsored successful bills to prohibit texting and the use of handheld phones while driving. We endorse D’Amico over attorney Jonathan Edelman, who jumped into the race as a Republican after attending a Chicago City Club luncheon panel on the subject of Illinois’ “pension disaster.” Edelman’s sense of alarm is on the money, but his grasp of the issues is not strong.
Democratic incumbent Robyn Gabel, in office since 2010, stays well informed on all the issues in Springfield. In the last two years, she has sponsored several bills that were signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, including one that keeps juveniles under 13 out of detention facilities when police can find group homes or foster homes for them. The governor erred when he vetoed a voter registration bill Gabel sponsored that would have automatically registered voters at state agencies, including driver’s license facilities, unless people opted out. For this North Shore district, we endorse Gabel over former Winnetka Village President Jessica Tucker, a socially moderate Republican who agrees with Gabel on matters such as education funding and gun laws. Tucker would be a respectable state rep, except that the district already has one in Gabel.
Nobody wants cookie-cutter legislators, but too often we get them. This district covering part of the Northwest Side and parts of the near northern and western suburbs is led by a Republican, Michael McAuliffe, who doesn’t necessarily follow the party line. That’s why he’s our pick, and we trust he will continue to vote his district’s conscience and not automatically fall in line with Gov. Bruce Rauner, who is generously funding McAuliffe’s campaign. McAuliffe, the only Republican from Chicago currently serving in the House, portrays himself as a moderate. For example, he supports a minimum-wage increase, though not the proposed $15 hourly wage that national organizers are pushing.
This race is a proxy war between Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan. While Rauner is behind McAuliffe’s funding, Democratic challenger Merry Marwig, an up-and-comer on Chicago’s political scene, has heavy financial backing from her party and unions. Rauner badly needs McAuliffe to hang on to the seat to block House Democrats from having a veto-proof supermajority. Marwig has a bright future, but she might want to immerse herself more in the issues facing Chicago. The morning after Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave an important speech on crime last month, she hadn’t read up on it.
We endorse Democratic incumbent Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez, who continues to push for social policy reforms on behalf of this predominantly Latino district that encompasses large parts of Berwyn, Cicero and part of Little Village. This year she championed the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights Act that extends labor protections to domestic workers such as nannies and housekeepers. Our enthusiasm is tempered by a move Hernandez made some years back, according to news reports, when she complained to then-Metra CEO Alex Clifford about her husband’s treatment as a Metra employee. It’s bad form to use your clout to complain to your spouse’s boss — about anything. Her challenger, Andy Kirchoff, is as an independent-minded Republican who has a promising future. We hope to see more of him.
Democrat Frances Ann Hurley’s record of service in her district, as an aldermanic aide for 18 years and as a state representative since 2012, far exceeds that of her challenger, Republican Victor Horne. In 2014, voters in this district that covers Washington Heights, Mount Greenwood, Beverly and southern suburbs, chose Hurley over Horne 66 percent to 34 percent. We like her opponent’s enthusiasm but reject his policy proposals, including support for stop-and-frisk policing. Our pick is Hurley, who is finding her footing as a lawmaker, especially in areas of domestic violence and sexual assault, and makes herself readily available to constituents.
Incumbent Republican Jeanne Ives of Wheaton is a frustration to us. A former Army officer, she now is a hard-working and informed state legislator, and we like to endorse folks like that, even when we might disagree with them on the issues. Certainly, Ives is a better match for this strongly Republican district than her neophyte Democratic opponent, Kathleen Carrier, a caregiver whose public service is limited to two years as chairwoman of the Wayne Township Democratic Party. But Ives chose not to participate in our endorsement process, not even filling out the questionnaire; and some of her comments over the years — such as a rant against mothers who receive childcare subsidies because the daddies should be in the picture — have been pretty raw. No endorsement.
Incumbent Democrat Fred Crespo, who has a reputation of being willing to work with lawmakers of both parties, is backed by the Republican mayors of Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg and Hanover Park, the largest municipalities wholly in his district. He supports sensible reforms to reduce gun violence: requiring state licenses for gun dealers; banning assault weapons, and implementing background checks for all firearms purchases. He has a record of looking for ways to cut costs in the state budget, and in 2011 he introduced the bill that got rid of scandal-ridden “legislative scholarships” to the state’s public universities. He is endorsed. Hanover Township Clerk Katy Dolan Baumer won a March write-in campaign to secure the Republican nomination in this northwest suburban district.
Democrat Cynthia Borbas, a Carol Stream IT consultant and political newcomer campaign in this west suburban district, says the top issues she wants to tackle are high property taxes, airplane noise from nearby O’Hare Airport, the state budget impasse and education, including public higher education. She would support a millionaire’s tax and closing corporate loopholes. Beyond that, she is willing to compromise with others willing to come to the table, but not at the price of cutting services to the most vulnerable. She also says she will oppose the NRA’s gun agenda. She is endorsed. Her Republican opponent, first-term incumbent Christine Winger of Wood Dale, favors implementing a 401(k)-style defined benefit system for state workers.
Deb Conroy deserves a third term — she has earned it — in this district that includes all of Villa Park and Glendale Heights and parts of other western suburbs. Conroy, the lone House Democrat from a wholly DuPage County district, has worked with Republicans to pass common-sense laws such as the incorporation of civics lessons in high school and the streamlining of 13 units of government in DuPage County. Another bill she sponsored delays the start of the 10-year statute of limitations on rape until evidence is tested. This is crucial because of backlogs of several hundred untested rape kits. We endorse her over Heidi Holan, a popular Republican in the district who supports school vouchers and enrolling new public employees into 401(k)-style pensions. Conroy defeated Holan in 2014 with 52.5 percent of the vote compared with 47.5 percent for Holan.