Editorial: Linda Holmes, Rachel Ventura, Andrew Chesney, Desi Anderson for Illinois Senate

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This week, the Tribune Editorial Board is making endorsements for all statewide contested races in the Illinois Senate. Here is part four of five parts.

State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, talks to reporters on March 24, 2022, in Springfield.

State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, talks to reporters on March 24, 2022, in Springfield. (John O’Connor/AP)

The 42nd, a district including much of Aurora but stretching into the Fox Valley, pits Republican Paul Santucci against incumbent Democrat and Assistant Majority Leader Linda Holmes, who assumed office in 2007. Both candidates live in Aurora.

Santucci, a specialist in marketing and public relations, has been the CEO of Incisive Media Inc., a firm in Chicago. he is also a Naperville trustee and an adjunct professor at North Central College.

Both candidates have moderate positions within their respective parties. Santucci says he supports abortion rights with limitations, agrees that assault weapons have no place in the hands of private citizens and appears to have a nuanced understanding of the SAFE-T Act and the issues surrounding cash bail.

Given the length of her service, clout in Springfield, and popularity among constituents, though, Holmes is clearly the front-runner in this race. Santucci cannot match her experience nor is he likely to be able to command the same level of resources for this district. We especially appreciated Holmes’ work on House Bill 601, aiming to curtail carjacking. “Families and motorists shouldn’t fear being on the roads because of a risk of being carjacked,” she said in spring.

Exactly. And Holmes has done extraordinary work for sufferers of multiple sclerosis, a condition she long has lived with herself. Holmes is endorsed.

Rachel Ventura, right, talks with her daughter, Lilly, while waiting in line to file to run as a candidate in Illinois' 11th District, on the first day of filing at the Illinois State Board of Elections, Nov. 25, 2019, in Springfield.

Rachel Ventura, right, talks with her daughter, Lilly, while waiting in line to file to run as a candidate in Illinois’ 11th District, on the first day of filing at the Illinois State Board of Elections, Nov. 25, 2019, in Springfield. (Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register)

Democrat Rachel Ventura of Joliet, a Will County board member, is running against conservative Republican Diane Harris, also of Joliet. We endorsed both of these candidates in their respective primaries.

A serious thinker about the issues, Ventura, has been business director for Legendary Games, an international publisher. She is a staunch progressive who wants to see the wealthy pay more taxes.

“To improve Illinois’ financial health, I would introduce a ‘Ken Griffin tax the rich package’ that modernizes Illinois’ tax structure so the wealthiest in Illinois would pay their fair share,” she told us. “I support closing corporate tax loopholes, ending corporate bailouts, and I support a .0033% tax on high-frequency stock trades. The combined increase in new revenue could strengthen Illinois budget by as much as $10 billion per year.”

She does not support Illinois pension reform and would leave the SAFE-T Act intact. She also says she will fight against corruption in state government and she is an avowed environmentalist.

Her opponent, Harris, is vice chairman of the Joliet Township Republicans, 23rd Precinct committeeman and a stalwart of Will County government with a reputation for being ethical and nice. When we spoke to her during primary season, she described herself as a “social and fiscal conservative” and spoke a lot about her faith.

Harris also told us that she’s a big believer in term limits. “If we can get taxing and spending under control,” she said, “a lot of the other problems in the state will be solved. The more we tax the taxpayers, the more likely they are to fall into a hole.”

Ventura told us that she carries a firearms user card and respects the Second Amendment but would work to improve gun safety. We don’t agree with all Ventura’s positions but are endorsing her in this race.

State Rep. Andrew Chesney, R-Freeport, during the spring legislative session, May 21, 2020, in Springfield.

State Rep. Andrew Chesney, R-Freeport, during the spring legislative session, May 21, 2020, in Springfield. (Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register)

Republican Andrew Chesney of Freeport is the clear front-runner in this geographically huge and mostly very conservative district, stretching from west of Rockford out to Galena. The 45th has been represented by retiring Illinois Republican Sen. Brian Stewart; Chesney previously represented the 89th District in the Illinois House.

Chesney is anti-abortion, with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. He opposes any restrictions the Second Amendment and is an avid hunter. He is vehemently opposed to the SAFE-T Act, saying that “crime will run rampant if it is not repealed.” He also has some interesting ideas on improving the efficiency of state government and saving taxpayers money. He argues that “election integrity” needs to be reformed but he is not an election denier.

Democrat Gerald Podraza lives in Galena and previously managed a research-based micro-vineyard. He currently runs an Industrial Hemp venture in Apple River. He has very limited political experience and is running a minor campaign.

Chesney has done his best for his region. We’ve endorsed him before — even though we don’t agree with all of his positions and would like to see movement on gun control — and we do so again.

Among the most fascinating races for Illinois Senate, the redrawn 46th district, which now includes Peoria and Bloomington-Normal, pits a 16-year incumbent, Dave Koehler of Peoria, against a newcomer, Republican Desi Anderson of Carlock. Both candidates ran unopposed in their primaries.

Anderson has a compelling personal story and sufficient command of the issues to attract a lot of support from the leadership of the Republican Party in Illinois who see in her candidacy a powerful story of overcoming adversity. So do we.

Anderson, who was born in Bulgaria, says she was abandoned in the streets as a baby and lived in an orphanage until she was adopted by a family from Oregon when she was 7 years old. After graduating from Indiana University, she became an intern to Rep. Rodney Davis on Capitol Hill. Anderson describes herself as a fresh voice, but one born of frustration at the dominance of “career politicians.”

“As a small business owner, I will always fight to lower taxes and support businesses in the 46th District,” she says. “I will be an advocate for reversing these extreme financial burdens imposed by the Democrat supermajority so people in central Illinois and the rest of the state can learn what it’s like to keep the majority of their paycheck instead of donating it back to the state government.”

Koehler, 73, points to his position in the leadership of the Senate as a way to better serve his district. In general, he is a loyal supporter of Gov. J.B. Pritzker who backs core Democratic positions and he has been a reliable steward of the budget. He also has been talking with local reporters about the commonalities between Bloomington-Normal and Peoria, newly joined in this district. “We have a lot in common,” he has said of the two cities. He also has said he does not take voters for granted. “As long as people like me, I will do my job,” he told radio station WGLT.

We think the upbeat Anderson, who has moderate positions on abortion and gun control, represents a breath of fresh air for Illinois Republicans. That would be good for the state. There’s no discounting Anderson’s limited experience when compared to Koehler’s fiscal prowess, and his ability to command resources for his district and legislative chops. Many will opt for continuity.

But we think Anderson deserves her shot in Springfield. She 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 letters@chicagotribune.com.

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October 27, 2022 at 07:05AM

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