With large swaths of farmland to the south and bustling suburbs to the north, Democrats from both ends of the 40th Senate District are competing in the March 17 primary.
The district includes a large portion of Kankakee County and all or parts of suburbs such as Chicago Heights, Flossmoor, Frankfort, Matteson, Mokena, New Lenox, South Chicago Heights and University Park.
Kankakee County accounts for about 40% of the 40th’s population, while 25% is in Will County and the remainder in south Cook County and a small portion in Grundy County.
Still, since at the least the late 1970s when Republican Aldo DeAngelis, a Chicago Heights native who later lived in Olympia Fields, began his run in the Senate, the south suburbs have been the home to the district’s voice in that chamber.
DeAngelis was followed in the Senate by Democrat Debbie Halvorson of Chicago Heights and later of Crete, with another Democrat, Toi Hutchinson, of Olympia Fields, appointed in 2009 to complete Halvorson’s term after her election to the U.S. House.
Patrick Joyce was appointed last November to replace Hutchinson, who was tabbed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker to serve as the state’s cannabis czar, overseeing the rollout of Illinois’ foray into legalized production and sales of recreational marijuana.
Joyce is running for a full term but is challenged for the party’s nomination by Monica Gordon, Marta Perales and Lori Wilcox.
David Morgan of Olympia Fields had filed to run then later withdrew after objections were filed to his nominating petitions.
The winner of the Democratic nomination will face Republican Eric Wallace, an ordained minister from Flossmoor, in November. Wallace is unopposed in the GOP primary.
Joyce is a fourth-generation farmer and his father, Jerry, was a longtime state senator.
His father served 17 years in the Senate, retiring in 1992 with his wife, Janet Joyce, serving out the remainder of his term until January 1993. Jerry Joyce died last June at age 80.
While seeking elected office for the first time, Joyce said that he has been “involved locally in the election process for most of my life” and that he knows “how to build relationships and navigate the process in Springfield to get things done for the district.”
Ensuring access to quality health care and addressing high property taxes are among the priorities for the district, Joyce said.
He said that, if elected, he would push for a higher contribution for education funding from the state, and that “we will pursue government consolidation where it makes the most sense to do more with less.”
Joyce is referencing a recommendation from a Pritzker-appointed task force assembled last year to ease the tax burden on homeowners and businesses, with suggestions including consolidation of taxing bodies such as school districts.
Gordon said the Senate race is her first run at elected office, but “I have the strategies, skills and relationships needed to ‘hit the ground running’ as senator.”
Involved with Democratic organizations including the Rich Township Democratic Organization, Gordon was also recently appointed to serve on Flossmoor’s Community Relations Commission.
She said she “vigorously advocates” for completion of a third airport in the south suburbs as a jobs generator for the district, and also supports Pritzker’s graduated income tax proposal.
Perales said she grew up in the south suburbs, living in Flossmoor, Hazel Crest and Markham.
She works as communications secretary for the Kankakee County Democratic Party and also in a fundraising capacity for the Southland Friends of Labor. For more than a decade, Perales worked as a part-time consultant for state Rep. Al Riley, D-Olympia Fields, until his term ended in January 2019.
She said that improving the safety of roads used by commuters through heavily-traveled areas such as Kankakee, Beecher, Chicago Heights and Matteson would be a priority if elected, as well as improving the water supply in Kankakee County, which has impacted business development.
Wilcox, who serves as president of the Chicago Heights Public Library Board, is a 12-year U.S. Army Reserve veteran with combat experience. She said that ensuring military veterans have access to needed care and benefits would be a priority.
“These men and women answered the nation’s call to serve, but doing so put a strain on them, their families and finances,” she said.
Legislators, Wilcox said, have a responsibility to “ease this burden as much as possible.”
Maintaining the district’s prominent role in agricultural production and access to affordable health care are also priorities for Wilcox.
Occupation: Fourth-generation farmer and owner of a recycling business
Prior elected experience: Appointed state senator for the 40th District in November to replace Toi Hutchinson.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in agribusiness from Illinois State University
Interests: Joyce said he has been heavily involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society since the death of his daughter in 2011 from leukemia. He said he is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys hunting and fishing.
Occupation: On leave as executive director of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Foundation
Prior elected experience: None
Education: Bachelor’s in journalism from Northern Illinois University, master’s in communication and training from Governors State University
Interests: Motivational speaking, songwriting, boxing
Occupation: Communications secretary for the Kankakee County Democratic Party.
Prior elected experience: None
Education: Master’s in political studies from University of Illinois at Springfield
Occupation: Chicago Heights city clerk
Prior elected experience: City clerk, Bloom Township Democratic Committeeman
Education: Bachelor’s in individual studies, Western Illinois University; master’s in education from American InterContinental University and pursing doctorate in education from Governors State University.
Interests: Reading, writing, sewing, dancing
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March 9, 2020 at 10:19AM