Content warning: This story contains mentions of sexual assault and gun violence.
Illinois House of Representatives 18th District candidates incumbent state Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) and Republican Charles Hutchinson discussed their stances on key issues, such as reproductive rights, collective bargaining and Illinois’ ban of cash bail at a Sunday night forum.
Gabel has held the office since 2010 and has served as the assistant majority leader in the Illinois General Assembly. Her policy priorities include protecting the environment, furthering women’s rights and criminal justice reform and addressing gun violence and public safety.
Hutchinson is currently the president of the Wilmette-Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce and chairman of Wilmette’s Historic Preservation Commission. He said he decided to run because he did not believe the district’s COVID-19 pandemic policies supported parents, students and business owners.
The 18th district represents Evanston residents, aside from 6th Ward residents who live west of McDaniel Avenue.
The League of Women Voters of Evanston, Wilmette, and Winnetka-Northfield-Kenilworth are hosting a series of virtual candidate forums leading up to the election for voters to get to know the candidates and cast a more informed vote.
Gabel said she supports current reproductive rights laws in Illinois, noting that she has worked throughout her career to pass legislation protecting these rights.
“Illinois has excellent laws around reproductive rights,” Gabel said. “We’re now looking at ways that we can protect providers here from being assaulted or being sued by other states.”
Gabel supported the Reproductive Health Act, adopted resolutions to fully fund Planned Parenthood and voted to repeal the Parental Notification Act — which required youth to notify their parents if they got an abortion, even in cases of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
Hutchinson does not support laws protecting abortions during the last trimester of a preganancy or the repeal of the Parental Notification Act.
Illinois residents will vote in November on Amendment 1, also dubbed the Worker’s Rights Amendment, which would establish the constitutional right for public sector employees to organize and bargain collectively through chosen representatives. The amendment would also ban right-to-work laws that allow workers to decide whether or not to join their union.
Gabel said she supports Amendment 1, noting the importance of workers’ rights to bargain and the economic benefits that could result from the amendment.
“The way our economy grows is by having workers who get paid enough money to buy products,” Gabel said.
Hutchinson disagreed and said he is concerned the amendment would force people to join unions, and the unions could then override laws decided by the General Assembly with their bargaining power.
Gabel said the biggest environmental challenge facing Illinois today is climate change. She helped negotiate the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, which she said will increase renewable energy and set a deadline for the state to have clean energy by 2040 and fully renewable energy by 2050.
While both candidates agreed lead pipes in Illinois must be addressed, Hutchinson said the lead pipes and forever chemicals in the Illinois water supply are the two biggest environmental issues facing the state.
“The fact that we have a 30-year plan to get rid of lead pipes is a disgrace,” Hutchinson said. “We should have a two- or three-year plan.”
SAFE-T Act and gun violence
Illinois’ SAFE-T Act, signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2021, has become a central issue for candidates statewide. The law includes the Pretrial Fairness Act, which will eliminate cash bail starting Jan. 1, 2023.
Hutchinson said the act has made Illinois’ neighborhoods unsafe. He said he supports providing police with more resources to address crime in communities instead.
Gabel, who supports the act, said because it has not gone into effect yet, it has not affected neighborhood safety. She said she supports the act because it seeks to reform systemic racism in the criminal justice system by addressing use of force, body camera usage and pretrial detention, among other issues.
The two candidates did, however, agree that banning automatic assault weapons would better protect communities from gun violence.
Voters in the 18th district can make their decision for House representative on Nov. 8 at any polling location in their county.
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October 21, 2022 at 06:46AM