By Bob Bong
For the first time in more than a decade, voters in the 21st Illinois House District (formerly the 23rd District) will be sending a new state representative to the General Assembly in Springfield.
Longtime lawmaker Michael Zalewski was defeated in the Democratic primary by Abdelnasser Rashid who is taking on Republican challenger Matthew Schultz in the November 8 election.
Rashid, 33, is making his third attempt for elected office. He lost a primary challenge in 2020 to Tammy Wendt for the Board of Tax Review and in 2018 narrowly lost a bid for the Cook County Board to Republican Sean Morrison in the 17th District.
He is the son of Palestinian immigrants who came to the United States more than 50 years ago. After going to local schools, he graduated from Harvard University and joined the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights to fight for immigration reform at the state and federal levels.
More recently, he had been active in county government. First working for County Assessor Fritz Kaegi and then policy director and deputy chief of staff to Cook County Clerk David Orr.
Schultz, 27, has lived for more than 20 years in Brookfield. Since graduating college, he has worked as a taxpayer advocate and is executive director of Taxpayers United of America.
He calls himself a Reform Republican because, if elected, he promises to work to “fix things that matter to us in District 21 and to be a voice for positive reforms in Springfield.”
He is a staunch opponent of new taxes and his group has worked to defeat tax increase proposals in various Cook and collar county communities as well as Governor Pritzker’s graduated income tax amendment in 2020.
He said he would continue that fight against new taxes in Springfield.
Unlike some of his Republican counterparts who were slated after the June primary, Schultz collected signatures and ran as a Republican in the primary.
“I decided to run because no Republican had run for a while,” he said. “I wanted to make sure it was a contested election.”
He said one of his goals in Springfield would be to get the legislature to “stop passing really bad bills.”
One example, he cited, was the SAFE-T Act, which has generated lots of buzz during this election.
“The SAFE-T Act signifies everything that is wrong with Illinois politics. The bill was passed in the middle of the night with little debate.”
Schultz also said he is a firm believer in bipartisanship.
“I would be more than willing to work across the aisle to get things done for the good of everyone,” he said. “Crime affects everyone. We have to help our neighbors. It doesn’t matter what party you belong to. Above all else, I want to do right by the people in the 21st District.”
Rashid shares Schultz’s need for property tax reform in Illinois. He said he saw first-hand some of the inequities in the tax system while working for the Assessor’s Office.
He said he has spent lots of time engaging with residents of the 21st District. “I wanted to hear from the people their concerns.”
He said some of his priorities will be investing in education and relying less on the property tax to fund schools, taking on the gun lobby by asking for universal background checks and banning assault weapons, and safeguarding the rights of workers in Illinois.
He said he will be a full-time representative. “Once elected, I’ll definitely be working more than 40 hours a week as state representative.”
As for his resident outside of the district? “I lived in the district for more than 20 years,” he said. “My house was moved out of the district by one block in the latest redistricting. I’m planning on moving into Bridgeview.”
He also took issue with opponents of the SAFE-T Act.
“If you are a danger to the community, you should not be able to buy your way out of jail. No criminals will be unleashed on the public as a result of the SAFE-T Act.”
The 21st District runs from Bridgeview north to Brookfield and from Countryside to Berwyn. It also takes in some of Chicago’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood.
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October 30, 2022 at 10:11PM