BUFFALO GROVE, IL — The former mayor of Buffalo Grove announced this week he is dropping out of the race to succeed Carol Sente (D-Vernon Hills) as 59th District state representative. Elliott Hartstein issued a statement saying he will not be submitting paperwork for run when the filing period for established party candidates opens Monday. He said he could make a more positive impact outside of the General Assembly by organizing people to work for change and support specific candidates.
Rep. Sente, who was appointed to the seat in 2009, announced in September she will not run again to represent the district, which includes parts of Buffalo Grove, Deerfield, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Lincolnshire, Mettawa, Mundelein, Park City, Riverwoods, Vernon Hills, Waukegan and Wheeling. Besides Hartstein, two Republicans and three Democrats have so far declared their candidacies for the seat.
In his statement, Hartstein criticizes the “unlimited power and control” of Speaker Mike Madigan, which it said would make it difficult for him to “serve as an independent minded Democrat.” It goes on to endorse an independent redistricting process, term limits, other electoral reforms and the campaigns of state Sen. Daniel Biss for Governor and Rep. Brad Schneider for reelection to Congress.
Read the complete statement below:
I have been involved in many arenas of public service for many years and announced for the open Sente House seat in the 59th because I have a passion that remains ignited to try to make our state a better place for my kids and grandkids, and yours as well. I am thankful for the rewarding opportunities I have had to serve our area. I just want to continue to try to make a difference. I sincerely believe that when I announced my candidacy that my years of service and long term commitment to reforms would make the House seat a vehicle where I could try to move the ball forward. I am so appreciative of the encouragement, support and contributions I have received from my family and so many friends and residents in the District for my campaign over the last 3 months, and am also appreciative and thankful to the over 1000 registered voters who signed my petitions.
However, after much deliberation and conversations with my family and with many people I trust and respect, I have come to the conclusion that I can continue to have the most impact on effectuating needed change and reform outside the Legislature as a public policy advocate on specific issues that I care deeply about, and by working to elect specific candidates that can have the most impact. I am consequently not proceeding with my campaign for the House seat in the 59th District and at this time I do not intend to file my fully completed nominating petitions with the State Board of Elections.
This was not an easy decision, but I believe it is the right decision for me. There were many factors that I took into consideration in making my decision. Many of you may not realize that we have a very biased system for both electing candidates and for how the legislative process works. First of all, the Democratic Party of Illinois is dominated and controlled by the same person who serves as Speaker of the House, namely Mike Madigan who has had this control for over 40 years. Having one person serve in both of those positions is in itself problematic and gives one person too much power and control. This control affects what the gerrymandered districts are and in effect who the voters are, who gets to run with party resources and who is attacked, whose bills are called, whose bills are sent to the graveyard, and what needed reforms get on the ballot. After discussions with several legislators, I concluded that the Speaker’s unlimited power and control would make it very hard for me to serve as an independent minded Democrat.
There are no term limits on either side of the aisle, but there should be, and the same person should not serve in both roles as a party leader and a leader in the legislature, and I will continue to work for trying to bring about change on those issues. While talking to the over 1000 people who signed my petitions, this issue was consistently raised. I have long believed there should be term limits on leaders, but realize that at this time, not enough people are willing to support change or at least not publicly vote for it.
As for election districts, the gerrymandered boundaries are determined in back rooms by Mr. Madigan and his acolytes. They in effect decide who the voters will be to ensure who will or will not be elected or able to run. If one looks at the 59th district you can see a prime example of gerrymandering. After 2020 there will be new districts. Therefore, whoever is elected will only have a short time to serve in the current district. We can hopefully get this problem fixed before then. That is why we need Independent Maps in our State, which thousands supported with petitions in the last two election cycles, but which Mr Madigan fought to keep off the ballot.
As for selecting of candidates, Mr. Madigan has a process where he and his team decide who will be chosen as the preferred candidate in any given election, who he will supply with money and troops, or in kind contributions of services and mailings, which will usually attack and distort the opposing candidates. I do not have great personal wealth, nor do many candidates, and the cost of contested elections has skyrocketed over the last elections cycles. There is clearly a need for campaign finance reform so people who want to run don’t get clobbered financially by the Speaker or any party leader. I experienced this seven years ago when I decided to run against Carol Sente after she was anointed. The usual anointed candidate in open seats will be a relatively new face who has no long record of local government service, even if there are potential candidates who have years of service and an understanding of the issues. If you look at the profiles of the chosen preferred candidates, you will see what I mean. Those experienced potential candidates are opposed especially if they have spoken out as independent thinkers. This year Daniel Didech is the anointed candidate in the 59th for the Democratic candidate. The anointed candidates may be capable and well intentioned, but usually would not have run without being anointed; but most importantly, they are the people the Speaker chooses to support and who he wants to get elected so he has a closer grip on the process. When they get elected they usually remember how they got there, what they have to do if they want to get re-elected, or financed in the next election, or get their bills passed. It is simply the way the system works or doesn’t work, depending on your perspective.
An important question for me came down to what would I be confronted with in Springfield if I was lucky enough to get elected. Springfield is still going to be much like it is today. The key hurdle now in place, which does not appear likely to change soon, is the super partisanship and toxic mix which has led many to leave on both sides of the aisle making it an uphill battle to find partners to work with on key challenges. As someone who feels it is important to have bipartisanship on some issues that need change, a review of the candidates running reflects that the other side of the aisle is going to have less people to work with. Those who had courage to do the right thing are more likely being replaced with more rigid members to the far right. Regardless, it is the Speaker who decides if your bills get called and what committee assignments you get, and as an independent minded Democrat that would be an additional hurdle for me in trying to get things done at this time. The problem is compounded by each representative having to run every two years. That is why I have long advocated for four year terms for legislators. That would give legislators little time to work on what they were sent to Springfield to do, as opposed to campaigning from the day they were elected, and making decisions primarily based on politics as opposed to good policy, especially due to the power of the Leadership over campaigns with that short election cycle.
When I announced my intention to run I was the only person who had come forward to run, and that was one of the reasons I stepped forward. I thought we needed a candidate and believed I could make a contribution. At this point though, I won’t be in the race, but I am happy to know people in the district will have a real choice in the primary with Susan Malter, Tim Kolber, and Daniel Didech. The people of the District should look at all of the candidates closely and decide who they think will really best represent them and work for needed change.
As for the Speaker, he is smart and quite often has taken positions I agree with, but he has too much power and control. I would hope that he would soon voluntarily give up some power for the long term good of the state, and that public pressure will lead to some government reforms as well. I do however give Speaker Madigan credit for standing tough based on core Democratic values with Governor Rauner who has never stopped campaigning and was never willing to govern and do his job. Every other Republican Governor was able to work with the legislature. That is why Governor Rauner must be replaced with a new Democratic Governor who understands the issues and how the legislative process works.
Though I will not be running for State Representative, I still care a great deal about the challenges facing our state and nation. I will continue to do whatever I can do myself and to motivate others to get involved. I would hope to work with some of the Reform minded groups in the months and years ahead to raise public awareness and motivate large numbers of our citizens to put intense public pressure on the leaders and legislators to begin to implement real meaningful needed Government reforms including Campaign Finance reform, Independent Maps, and Term limits for leaders. In terms of the financial challenges facing our state, I believe that the most important long term action we need to take is to put in place a fair progressive income tax, and will do my utmost to work to get a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot and get it passed. That needed reform in tax policy is the cornerstone which will allow us to better fund our schools and in turn reduce property taxes, protect our safety net programs, and meet other challenges facing our state.
I also believe it is important to back candidates who I believe can really make a difference. From that standpoint I choose to focus my efforts on two at this time. For Washington, I remain committed to making sure that Brad Schneider gets reelected to Congress in the 10TH. He has done an outstanding job fighting for us, and I hope that when we reelect him we will also see a new Democratic Congress in 2018. Change in the Governor’s mansion is also critical for the future of our state. In the Democratic primary I believe that Daniel Biss is the best and the brightest to lead us forward as Governor. He understands the issues and has actually been able to get things done in Springfield as a Senator. I will work to make sure that before the primary that the citizens of our state know why Daniel Biss is the candidate they should be sending to Springfield to lead our state.
I wish all of the Candidates in the 59th House Race the best of luck with their races and look forward to hearing a spirited debate on the issues facing the state. I urge all my friends and neighbors and voters to join me in continuing to work for Government Reforms, for a Progressive Income Tax in our state and for candidates who can make a difference like Brad Schneider for Congress and Daniel Biss for Governor.
Thanks again to all who have shared their concerns and who have lent support to my Campaign for State Representative. I will continue to do what I can outside the legislature to Build a Better Illinois.
Top photo: Elliott Hartstein | Courtesy Elliott Hartstein