House 56 hopefuls debate their bipartisan appeal

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Despite their different party affiliations and stances on Democratic Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, both candidates for the 56th District state House seat Friday explained why they believed their voter support on Nov. 8 could come from members of the opposite party as well.

Republican challenger Jillian Bernas of Schaumburg said Madigan’s policies have brought Illinois to a breaking point that even Democrats in her district recognize.

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But Democratic incumbent Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg said the state’s problems are bigger than any one man and declined to commit to voting for or against his continued leadership of the House if re-elected herself.

Mussman added that she believes her six years of service to the district have shown her to be something other than a party pawn.

"I’m a very conservative legislator," Mussman said. "I represent a very conservative district. And when I’m talking to my voters I make sure I’m talking to everyone. I’m knocking on every door, hard-core Republican and Democrat alike."

Mussman said that if Republicans typically oppose tax increases and favor smaller government, she can tell them she’s never voted for a single tax or fee, but has voted to cut her own pay six times, to eliminate the lieutenant governor’s office and to consolidate some other offices.

Bernas argued that her opponent has indeed voted to raise taxes and has been strongly criticized by business advocacy groups for placing regulatory burdens on Illinois businesses.

Mussman responded that only in her votes for entire state budgets — in which she couldn’t personally customize every line — could she be considered to have voted for a tax increase.

But Bernas said Mussman’s spoken support for such issues as schools and education doesn’t match her voting record, and are typical of her opponent’s saying one thing and doing another.

"I think that’s where I’ve gotten a lot of support from people on the Democrat side," Bernas said. "They’re looking for change. They’re looking for new leadership. They want someone who says what she’s going to do in the district and then goes to Springfield and actually does that. And that’s what I’m looking forward to doing in representing my community and keeping my word."

Mussman said she believes constituents know to what degree she’s kept her word.

"I’ve actually knocked on over 6,500 doors just since July," Mussman said. "If I’m going to keep coming back to your door, I’d better have something to say for myself, right?"

The 56th District includes Schaumburg and portions of Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Bartlett, Hanover Park, Palatine, Rolling Meadows and Roselle.

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