The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board today begins endorsements for the Illinois General Assembly. While the choice of a U.S. president attracts more attention, lawmakers in Springfield arguably influence the lives of Illinois citizens as much as the next White House occupant will. Voters, please pay attention to these down-ballot races.
Democrats hold supermajorities in the Illinois House and Senate. In the House, there are 71 Democrats and 47 Republicans; in the Senate, 39 Democrats and 20 Republicans. We're advocating for more balance in both chambers, and our endorsements reflect that. Lawmakers of both parties tell us Springfield works better and more fairly when representation is less lopsided. Our mission is to recommend thoughtful, independent legislators of both parties.
Of the 40 seats up for election this year in the Senate, 13 are contested:
22nd District: Democrat Cristina Castro of Elgin is a member of the Kane County Board. She has worked well with her Republican counterparts scrutinizing budget expenses, and she led efforts to crack down on county credit card expenses and other over-budget spending. We endorse Castro for this seat, which is open due to outgoing Sen. Michael Noland's decision to run for Congress. Castro's opponent, Tracy Smodilla of Bartlett, didn't run in the primary but managed to ward off a Democratic challenge as a last-minute slated Republican. She's smart, outspoken and fiscally conservative. She is not afraid to stand up to, well, anyone. She successfully fought an unnecessary tax increment financing district in her hometown. We hope to see her name on future ballots.
23rd District: The remap of legislative districts in Democrats' favor helped nudge Sen. Tom Cullerton, former Villa Park mayor and a cousin of Senate President John Cullerton, into this seat in 2012. Cullerton has done some things we like. He was lead sponsor of a bill blocked by Republicans to get rid of the unnecessary lieutenant governor's office. But he doesn't wander far off his party's script and should have voted against a budget this spring that was $7 billion out of balance. He voted "present." Our nod goes to Republican Seth Lewis, an insurance agent from Bartlett, who as a Bartlett Fire Protection District trustee hasn't been afraid to vote against more spending. He also isn't afraid to speak against generous pension packages that taxpayers subsidize — including that of his wife, who is a school superintendent. Ouch. We wouldn't want to be at the dinner table for that discussion.Editorial Board questionnairesOpen link
25th District: Just when we were warming up to Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, something pulled us back. After running for several offices, he finally won a seat in the state Senate in 2012. Then he turned around and ran for U.S. Senate. And now, he's missing votes on the few days a year the legislature is in session. There are several instances when dozens of votes got called and Oberweis wasn't around. He runs a successful business, and his wife's permanent residence is in Florida. We're endorsing his Democratic opponent, Corinne Pierog, a school board member from St. Charles. Her chances of winning in this GOP-leaning district are slim. But we're pretty sure she'll show up to vote if elected.
26th District: This northwest suburban seat opened in April when incumbent Dan Duffy resigned early. Local GOP leaders rallied to Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods, who won the March Republican primary. McConchie didn't get our endorsement in that race, but he's getting it this time. He has shown a willingness to work across the aisle and dig into policy, including school funding reform and anti-sex trafficking efforts. His opponent, Democrat Kelly Mazeski of Barrington, is an impressive candidate who has been involved in her local government. She characterizes McConchie as "a one-issue" lobbyist who is too socially conservative for the district. We're not convinced. McConchie left his job with an anti-abortion organization and has shown he is not a one-issue legislator. Let's give him a chance. McConchie is endorsed.Why we endorse Editorial Board
Today the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board publishes its first candidate endorsement for the Nov. 8 general election. In the coming days we’ll offer endorsements for statewide, congressional, legislative and county offices. Our choices are based in part on the questionnaires completed by candidates....
Today the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board publishes its first candidate endorsement for the Nov. 8 general election. In the coming days we’ll offer endorsements for statewide, congressional, legislative and county offices. Our choices are based in part on the questionnaires completed by candidates....(Editorial Board)
28th District: We like Sen. Laura Murphy, D-Des Plaines, because she is direct and outspoken. As a former member of the Des Plaines City Council, she advocated canceling a contract with a group opposing O'Hare airport expansion because taxpayers weren't getting enough for their money. But so far in Springfield, she has stuck to the Democratic playbook, including voting for piecemeal budget bills that expanded government programs but had no real funding attached to them. She also supported a bill at the behest of the state's largest employee union that was anti-taxpayer. This is a race where taxpayers could say "Enough!" with the budget games. We're endorsing Republican Mel Thillens of Park Ridge, whose view of government's role is less, less and less.
29th District: Incumbent Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, has represented the district since 2013 and has proven to be an independent thinker. She launched and now chairs the Special Needs Caucus, a bipartisan group that focuses on the disabled community. She worked on legislation enabling government consolidation and creating more accountability at the Department of Children and Family Services. She voted against a local government mandate that would have tied the hands of mayors in contract negotiations with firefighters, splitting from her party. She faces Benjamin Salzberg of Northbrook, who helps companies save money by finding efficiencies. Springfield could use that. But he doesn't make much of a case to oust Morrison. She is endorsed.
31st District: Let's get one thing out the way: Republican candidate Michael Amrozowicz's name is pronounced "Am-RO-zo-wits." The Gurnee resident and former Lake County Republican Party chairman is running against incumbent Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, who was elected in 2012 and buoyed by a new, favorable district map. Bush voted against most versions of pension reform and supported a union-backed bill that most editorial boards from Rockford to Carbondale criticized as irresponsible and anti-taxpayer. The state is broke. Taxpayers are tired of shouldering all the promises. Amrozowicz would bring more fiscal sanity to the Senate. He is endorsed.
32nd District: Sen. Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry, is running for a two-year term and says if re-elected, it will be her last: "I believe in term limits." Appointed to the seat in 2003, she has represented the northwest suburbs ever since. She has been successful at passing legislation because she lobbies her colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers. She knows Democrat staff just as well as Republican staff. Not many legislators can say that. We disagreed with her handling of a government consolidation bill this spring — she watered it down — but she still got the bill passed and signed into law. Althoff is endorsed over Democrat Melissa Coyne, a small business owner and community activist from Fox Lake.
38th District: A rematch is underway between Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, and Christine Benson, D-Ottawa. Benson lost to Rezin 46 percent to 54 percent when they faced off in 2012. Benson retired that year as superintendent of Streator Elementary School District 44, which has been struggling with a budget deficit due in part to the state's inability to make full school payments. But Streator-area voters signaled they are taxed out. They rejected a school referendum to raise property taxes. Rezin would be a stronger advocate for those tax-weary residents. She is a consistent advocate for government consolidation and financial stability. We doubt Benson, who retired with a generous pension and is backed by organized labor, would be as prudent. With Democrats holding their 39-20 advantage over Republicans in the Senate, taxpayers can't afford to lose another seat. Rezin is endorsed.
49th District: In this southwest suburban district, Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, is facing Michelle Smith, R-Plainfield, who is the board president in Plainfield School District 202. On the school board, Smith has tried to keep the property tax levy steady while dealing with unpredictability from the state. "Attempting to build a budget every year is like throwing darts blindfolded," Smith says. Incumbent Bertino-Tarrant should understand the pressure the state's financial chaos creates in her district — yet she couldn't bring herself to vote against House Speaker Michael Madigan's budget, which was $7 billion out of balance. She voted "present." Votes like that are the reason the state's finances are a disaster. Smith is strongly endorsed.
52nd District: First, a clarification: The Republican running in this district named Michael Madigan is not the Michael Madigan, the speaker. The Urbana restaurateur is campaigning as "the other Mike Madigan." He worked for more than a decade in state government before opening several barbecue restaurants. He faces freshman Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, who was appointed in 2015 to complete the term of state Treasurer Mike Frerichs. So far, Bennett has proven to be an independent-minded legislator. A former assistant state's attorney, he got a bill signed into law that further protects the rights of sexual assault victims, including during evidence-gathering. We wish Madigan were running for a different seat. His experience in government and business would be a welcome perspective in Springfield. But Bennett has earned another term.
58th District: We know both Republican Paul Schimpf of Waterloo and Democrat Sheila Simon of Carbondale to be dedicated public servants. Schimpf served in the U.S. Marine Corps and was an adviser to Iraqi prosecutors during the trial of Saddam Hussein. Simon was lieutenant governor under Pat Quinn. But here's a case where voters in Southern Illinois can demand change. The economy in this part of the state is desperate for revitalization. Democratic policies have not worked. Schimpf supports workers' comp changes to make Illinois more business-friendly. He also supports tort reform and term limits. Schimpf is endorsed.
59th District: It's strange that Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, claims to be a fiscal steward, often proclaiming that the state should retire its massive pile of unpaid bills. Then he voted in May for House Speaker Michael Madigan's spending plan, which everyone knew was $7 billion short. He didn't have to vote for it. Most Democratic senators did not. Remember that, voters of this district, when you show up to cast a ballot on Nov. 8. A better choice is Dale Fowler, mayor of Harrisburg, who knows what "reckless spending" actually means. Fowler is endorsed.
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