For Illinois Senate: Feigenholtz, Fine, Porfirio, Cunningham, Sheehan – Chicago Tribune

Beginning Monday, the Tribune Editorial Board turns its attention to the upper chamber of the Illinois General Assembly and its 59 districts. In the coming election, 25 races are contested.

Illinois is staring down many important issues, including the state’s support for abortion, the ongoing instability of state pensions, a looming recession, the lingering impact of the COVID-19 crisis and the perennial issue of violent crime, an especially potent concern in the larger cities but with statewide impact.

In this first slate of endorsements, most of the contested seats are longtime Democratic strongholds in Chicago, as gerrymandered to serve incumbents, and few are likely to be close races.

Sen. Sara Feigenholtz on Oct. 12, 2022.

Sen. Sara Feigenholtz on Oct. 12, 2022. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune)


Sara Feigenholtz, 65, has represented this solidly Democratic district, which includes the liberal lakefront Chicago neighborhoods of Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Buena Park and Near North Side, since 2020, although she was elected to her first term as state representative of Illinois’ 12th District in 1994. Feigenholtz is the adopted daughter of a Polish immigrant mother and she long has focused on issues of health care and human services, especially women’s and family issues.

Feigenholtz told us she is committed to ethics reform: “For as long as I have been in office, I have committed to bringing ethical and accountable leadership to Springfield,” she said. “Illinoisans are appropriately cynical and disillusioned about our government. Public trust lost is hard to recover due to never-ending scandals and indictments.” Indeed.

In July, the staunchly pro-abortion rights Feigenholtz received sharp criticism from the Archdiocese of Chicago after she posted a cartoon image to Facebook depicting a Catholic pope (or perhaps a bishop) pointing a gun at a pregnant Statue of Liberty. Republicans pounced and called for her resignation. After she was accused of “hate speech” by Catholic leaders, Feigenholtz rightly apologized.

Feingenholtz’ opponent is Nicole Drewery, who says that “as a woman of color running as a Republican, I believe I can help attract voters to the party that have been marginalized by the Democratic regime,” but has not mounted a very visible campaign. We endorse Feigenholtz, who is in sync with her district, has a strong grasp of local issues and has effectively served the North Side.

State Sen. Laura Fine on Oct. 7, 2022, in Northbrook.

State Sen. Laura Fine on Oct. 7, 2022, in Northbrook. (Karie Angell Luc/for the Pioneer Press)


Incumbent Laura Fine assumed office in this heavily Democratic district (covering mostly affluent North Shore suburbs) in 2019, succeeding Daniel Biss, now mayor of Evanston. Fine, a former teacher who grew up in Glenview, represented the 17th District of the Illinois House from 2013-2019 and also was mayor of Northfield.

Fine, who is on several important Springfield committees, has a compelling personal story of taking on the insurance industry after an accident involving her husband meant that her family was staring bankruptcy in the face. We’re not crazy about all Fine’s positions, including her holding up Amtrak’s expansion of its Hiawatha line after Glenview residents worried about traffic disruptions. But she is popular and in tune with her district.

Fine’s opponent is Republican Paul Kelly, whose platforms include reducing taxes and improving schools. He has not mounted an extensive campaign in this safely Democratic district. Fine is endorsed.


This solidly Democratic, weirdly shaped district now covers part of Chicago’s Southwest Side along with such close-in suburbs as Berwyn, Summit and Bridgeview. It is currently represented by Celina Villanueva who is on the ballot (and running unopposed) for the 12th District.

Democrat Mike Porfirio is an Iraq War veteran who grew up in Bridgeview in what he describes as a working-class family and pro-union household. A 2004 Naval Academy graduate, he served more than six years on active military duty.

“I know the district well and my values and priorities align with what the working families of the 11th District care about and want to see their elected official in Springfield address,” Porfirio told us.

He also told us that “we need to make sure that our law enforcement agencies are given the resources, funding, equipment, training and support they need to keep our communities safe. We also need to make sure that we are addressing the prevalence of guns in our communities to further prevent acts of gun violence and mass shootings.” Those are positions with which we agree wholeheartedly.

Porfirio’s opponent is Thomas “Mac” McGill, also a candidate who claims a blue-collar heritage. A lively personality, McGill has been an investigator with the Cook County sheriff’s department, the owner of a company called Midway Financial Group (which he has sold) and an actor in many of the TV shows that film in Chicago. McGill told us that he does not expect to win but prides offering voters “independent thinking.”

Porfirio is endorsed.

Sen. Bill Cunningham at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on April 7, 2022.

Sen. Bill Cunningham at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on April 7, 2022. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)


The 18th includes sections of Orland, Worth, and Palos townships in the southwest Cook County suburbs and the neighborhoods of Mount Greenwood, Beverly, Morgan Park and Auburn Gresham in Chicago. The incumbent is Bill Cunningham, a Springfield fixture who previously was a member of the Illinois House, representing the 35th District from 2011-13, and who became president pro tempore of the Senate on Jan. 30, 2020.

We’ve admired much of his legislation, including moves to protect Illinoisans from sex offenders. Before turning to elected office, Cunningham spent 20 years working for the Cook County sheriff’s office, serving as director of communications to Sheriff Mike Sheahan and chief of staff to Sheriff Tom Dart. That experience explains, perhaps, his stalwart support of law enforcement and first responders. Even Republicans tend to admire Cunningham and see him as someone with whom they can work.

Cunningham’s opponent is managing real estate broker Christine Shanahan McGovern who told us that her views are “very conservative.” Her answers to our questions certainly reflect that: “I am a small business owner and will never support the shutdown of our businesses,” she told us. “I started the Chicago team of ReOpen Illinois in support of our businesses which are all essential. I am a licensed substitute teacher and will never support the closing of our schools. I believe that the government does not have a right to dictate tampons being placed in boy’s bathrooms. I also am against this sexualization of our children and gender confusion toward our children.“

When asked about the legitimacy of the 2020 election, McGovern responded: “We need to protect our elections. Why do you need an ID to get your vaccine card but not to participate in the greatest privilege of being an American. We need an audit on our voter rolls. I personally know my history disappeared. I know dead people voted. Fraud or no fraud, you decide.”

Cunningham has our endorsement.


This race is wholly unlike the ones above.

For one thing, Gov. J. B. Pritzker has called upon incumbent Democratic candidate Michael Hastings to resign, after Hastings was accused (in a civil case) of domestic violence against his estranged wife. (He has not resigned). If that were not enough, Hastings’ personal affairs also have cost Illinois taxpayers $100,000, which was the amount paid earlier this year to Hastings’ ex-chief of staff to settle a racial and gender discrimination case. Clearly, the 41-year-old West Point graduate has problems.

Republicans have high hopes for Plainfield police Officer Patrick Sheehan, who unsurprisingly has joined the calls for his opponent to resign. “As a police officer for over 16 years,” Sheehan said, “I have consistently defended women from their domestic abusers and harassers. I can tell you, the kind of people who conduct this type of behavior have no place in our government.”

Even though Sheehan, who lives in Beverly with wife Susie and five children, does not have a lot of political experience, he is admired by Republican Party leadership was see him as a hardworking campaigner and a decent, moderate guy who is oriented to public service and wants to do right by the people of his district, which includes portions of Cook and Will counties, including much of Frankfort, Mokena and New Lenox.

Sheehan says he wants to restore trust between police and communities. Meanwhile, Hastings hasn’t adequately explained himself to voters.

Sheehan, the Republican, is endorsed.

Join the discussion on Twitter @chitribopinions and on Facebook.

Submit a letter, of no more than 400 words, to the editor here or email

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October 24, 2022 at 06:57AM

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