Today, we offer our endorsements in 16 competitive Illinois House races in the Chicago area. This weekend, we’ll publish endorsements in 17 more.
You can read our previous endorsements in the races for governor, Congress, Illinois comptroller, Illinois attorney general, Illinois secretary of state, Illinois treasurer, Illinois Senate, Cook County assessor and Cook County Board of Commissioners in the Sun-Times 2018 Illinois Voting Guide: elections.suntimes.com/voting-guide/.
John D’Amico in the 15th District
In this Northwest Side and northwest suburban district, our endorsement goes to incumbent Democrat John C. D’Amico of Chicago.
We disagreed with D’Amico when he voted against a temporary tax increase in 2011 to address the state’s woefully underfunded pensions, but he did vote to break Springfield’s budget impasse with a plan that was somewhat balanced and included new revenue to start paying off the state’s fast-growing stack of unpaid bills.
D’Amico, a strong voice for his district, also co-sponsored the bill that evolved into the important Future Energy Jobs Act, which provides greater support for clean energy, such as wind and solar.
Also running is Republican Amanda Biela, a former Chicago Public Schools teacher.
Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz in the 17th District
Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz of Glenview survived a tough Democratic primary in March, beating four opponents to advance to the November general election for an open seat in the House.
The experience served her well. In her interview with the Sun-Times Editorial Board, Gong-Gershowitz had a grasp of the big issues facing lawmakers in Springfield — high workers’ compensation rates, homeowners turning to the General Assembly for property-tax relief, education funding and the need for more revenue. To deal with the latter, she backs a graduated income tax.
Gong-Gershowitz is an attorney who specializes in immigration and human rights. She has stood up for children forced to maneuver the immigration system alone and children who have been victims of child trafficking. She was the first director of immigration law for the Highwood Legal Aid Clinic.
If elected, she will be the only immigration lawyer in the General Assembly. She is endorsed over Republican Peter Lee of Wilmette, also an attorney.
Robyn Gabel in the 18th District
Democratic incumbent Robyn Gabel of Evanston is one of the more capable legislators in Springfield.
She was a leader in bringing automatic voter registration to the state and the Future Energy Jobs Act, which has helped make Illinois home to the most solar energy start-ups in the Midwest. If re-elected, she says she would work to make Illinois — already a transportation hub — a center of electric-powered transportation as well. She also is a strong supporter of sensible laws to address gun violence.
Gabel is endorsed in this north suburban district. Also running is Julie Cho of Wilmette, who is centering her campaign on ending gerrymandering.
Robert F. Martwick in the 19th District
To stop middle- and working-class families from fleeing the state, Democratic state Rep. Robert F. Martwick is convinced Illinois must change the way it taxes income.
Only then, he says, can our state ease the burden of property taxes, and eliminate the stack of unpaid bills and pension obligations that threaten to paralyze state government, properly fund schools and create the tax stability that businesses crave.
To Martwick’s thinking, there is no honest alternative to a graduated, or progressive, income tax. Republicans hate that.
They also, as Martwick says, have never come up with a feasible alternative.
We endorse Martwick over Republican Ammie Kessem, a sergeant with the Chicago Police Department.
Frances Ann Hurley in the 35th District
Six-year incumbent Democrat Frances Ann Hurley, who lives in Mount Greenwood, supports expanded casino gambling, legalizing recreational marijuana, gun dealer licensing and expanding medical marijuana usage to cover pain management. A former legislative aide to Chicago aldermen Ginger Rugai and Matt O’Shea, Hurley has an extensive government and community service background. She also is a strong backer of property tax freezes.
We endorse her over Republican Herbert Hebein, a retired Chicago police officer.
Matthew J. Hunt in the 37th District
It’s a close call in the 37th District, but our choice is Matthew J. Hunt of Frankfort.
Hunt is a first-time candidate and a Democrat, in a district in southwest suburban Will County that long has been solidly Republican. But we’re endorsing Hunt because of his business background and support of labor rights; Springfield needs more legislators who understand that business and labor don’t have to be at odds.
Hunt grew up in the area and surely understands its dynamics as well as the Republican incumbent, Rep. Margo McDermed. She leans right even within her party, voting against two commonsense gun restrictions that many of her fellow GOP lawmakers supported: 72-hour waiting periods to buy guns and restricting the sale of assault weapons to those 21 and older.
Hunt, who runs an insurance agency, has a track record of community service, including serving as a trustee of the Palos Heights Police Pension Board, board chair of the Lake Katherine Nature Center and coaching in local youth hockey and softball leagues.
Grant Wehrli in the 41st District
State Rep. Grant Wehrli understands public finances. You learn such stuff, if you don’t know it already, when you serve on the city council of one of the most financially sound big towns in Illinois: Naperville.
Wehrli, a small business owner, also has a good grasp of the intricacies of funding public pensions. And he knows all too well how cities get hammered by the dysfunction in Springfield.
Wehrli, a Republican, is opposed by Democrat Val Montgomery, who does not live in the 41st District. We endorse Wehrli, an easy call, with a request that he show a little more class sometimes. On the floor of the House once, he shouted “Speaker Junk” at House Speaker Mike Madigan, a reference to the state’s poor rating from bond agencies, and his fellow Republicans had to tell him to pipe down.
Kathleen V. Carrier in the 42nd District
Democrat Kathleen V. Carrier of Carol Stream has been a strong supporter of women’s rights. It’s no surprise then that she’s endorsed by the Illinois Chapter of the National Organization for Women and Emily’s List.
As more and more families in the suburbs express concern over mass shootings, we need more legislators who will support commonsense reforms to help prevent gun violence. Carrier will do that. She is endorsed by the Gun Violence Prevention PAC.
We endorse her over DuPage County Board member Amy L. Grant, a Republican from Wheaton.
Anna Moeller in the 43rd District
Incumbent Democrat Anna Moeller of Elgin was among a bipartisan group of legislators who quietly came together in 2017 and worked to end an impasse that had left the state without a budget for two years. Reasonable people cheered on reasonable legislators, Moeller included, who wanted to end the stupidity.
Moeller, a former Elgin City Council member and the founding executive director of the McHenry County Council of Governments, supports creating a state board empowered to ensure that insurance companies are not pocketing excessive profits on workers’ compensation premiums. Of all the proposed tinkering to our state’s workers’ compensation rules, that’s exactly the place to start.
Republican candidate and small business owner Andrew R. Cuming of Elgin, who considers himself a libertarian, also is running.
Fred Crespo in the 44th District
Democratic incumbent Fred Crespo likes to cross party lines, at least back home in his northwest suburban district, working with local mayors — many of them Republican — to produce what he calls “deliverables.”
“I’m not that partisan,” he said with a shrug in an endorsement interview. “I work with both sides.”
Most recently, Crespo worked to secure more business for Schaumburg’s convention center and helped win a full tollway interchange at Barrington Road in Hoffman Estates. He helped arrange financial assistance for construction of a much-needed Alexian Brother’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Hoffman Estates.
Crespo has represented the 44th District for 11 years. We endorse him over Republican Katy Dolan Baumer, the Hanover Township clerk.
Diane Pappas in the 45th District
Every legislator at some point was a first-time candidate who had to convince the voters that they deserved to be elected to public office. Residents of the west suburban 45th District should not need much persuading that attorney Diane Pappas deserves their vote. We endorse Pappas, a Democrat, over Republican Christine Winger of Wood Dale.
Straightforward and well-informed, Pappas has worked as an in-house attorney for major companies and wants to bring her corporate negotiating experience to Springfield to “cut through partisan gridlock and get our state back on the right track.” As a one-time Independent (she volunteered to run as a Democrat when the party’s nominee dropped out), we expect Pappas to bring a fresh, practical perspective to the Legislature.
She also has a compelling personal story that shows she can rise to a challenge: Her family immigrated here from Communist Poland, and Pappas eventually earned degrees from Michigan State University and Yale Law School.
Deb Conroy in the 46th District
Earlier this year, an aide to House Speaker Mike Madigan lost his job after state Rep. Deb Conroy raised a serious charge of inappropriate conduct involving him.
The #MeToo movement had hit Springfield, and Conroy — though long considered a Madigan loyalist — called the speaker out.
In her personal life, this has been a rough year for Conroy. In June, she donated a kidney to her ex-husband. She remains an involved and effective legislator, however, especially in fighting for issues of particular importance to women.
We endorse Conroy, a state representative since 2013, over Republican Gordon “Jay” Kinzler, a surgeon and member of the Glen Ellyn Park Board.
Deanne Marie Mazzochi in the 47th District
Republican Deanne Marie Mazzochi of Elmhurst, chairman of the College of DuPage board of trustees and a lawyer, was appointed to this seat over the summer to replace state Rep. Patti Bellock.
Mazzochi first was elected to the COD board in April 2015, a difficult time during which the board grappled with a series of scandals involving questionable expenditures. She took charge and was named acting chairman a few months later.
Mazzochi’s priorities would be to impose term limits; make state-supported health care function more smoothly for seniors and the disabled, and work to reduce opioid addiction. She also wants to reduce property taxes while reversing the state income tax increase. She would attempt to offset the revenue losses by controlling state spending. She is endorsed.
Also running is Democrat James M. “Jim” Caffrey of Elmhurst, a former customer team manager for Clorox.
Peter Breen in the 48th District
We disagree with Republican Peter Breen on more than a few issues. When it comes to abortion rights, most notably, he is staunchly and quite actively pro-life while we’re strongly pro-choice.
But Illinois faces a host of problems, from ballooning pension fund debt to oppressive property taxes to an exodus of residents, on which Breen has worked with Democrats in an honest attempt to solve. We endorse Breen, an attorney from Lombard, for a third term.
Breen is among those suburban GOP legislators who now back tougher gun restrictions, having listened to their constituents. He supported the gun dealer licensing bill that Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed, and worked with Democratic Rep. Kathleen Willis of Addison on the Firearms Restraining Order Act, which allows guns to be seized from a person deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.
Breen’s Democratic challenger is attorney Terra Costa Howard of Glen Ellyn, a former president of the District 41 School Board.
Tonia “Jane” Khouri in the 49th District
Republican Tonia “Jane” Khouri makes a good point about a proposed graduated state income tax, which she opposes but almost all Democrats favor. It would require at least several years to enact, she says, given the need to rewrite the Illinois Constitution first, and the state can’t wait that long.
Given the speed with which Illinois’ debts and pension obligations continue to grow, Khouri told us, the Legislature has to “move the state forward” right now.
We support a graduated income tax, but Khouri is right that it would be no panacea. And we respect her advocacy for immediate and creative ways to reduce overall spending.
Khouri is a member of the DuPage County Board, which has done a commendable job of cutting costs. She also operates a landscaping and home remodeling business.
We endorse Khouri over Democrat Karina Villa, a school social worker and member of the West Chicago Elementary District 33 school board.
Keith R. Wheeler in the 50th District
In 2017, Republican state Rep. Keith R. Wheeler of Oswego was part of a bipartisan group in the Illinois House that reformed the Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax credit program for businesses. They improved it, in part, by making smaller businesses eligible for the program and offering a financial incentive to companies that established themselves in underserved areas.
Wheeler has more ideas on how to make Illinois friendlier to businesses big and small, including a program to offer tax incentives to construction companies that take on capital improvement projects in the state. He deserves another term to make a case for his business-friendly proposals.
Wheeler is endorsed over Democrat James Leslie, a firefighter and paramedic from Aurora.
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