Editorial: For Illinois House: Mark Albers, Vincent Romano, Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz …

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This is the second installment of the Tribune Editorial Board’s endorsements for Illinois House races in the Nov. 8 general election.

This district includes parts of Niles, Morton Grove and Chicago’s Far Northwest Side. Republican Mark Albers, owner of a sales and marketing firm, wants to make Illinois more economically competitive by using neighboring Indiana’s approach of capping a homeowner’s property taxes at 1% of the home’s assessed value. “We pay nearly triple what Indiana pays in taxes,” the Morton Grove resident tells us. He also supports putting a pension reform amendment on the ballot.

Democratic incumbent Michael Kelly is a Chicago firefighter who was appointed to the seat in 2021 after the sudden midterm resignation of John D’Amico, a longtime ally of Madigan, who faces a federal trial on corruption charges. Our endorsement goes to Albers.

This district, which includes parts of Skokie, Lincolnwood and the West Ridge neighborhood on the Far Northwest Side, will get a new representative after Kevin Olickal beat incumbent Denyse Wang Stoneback in the Democratic primary in June. Olickal, a staunchly pro-union progressive, faces Republican Vincent Romano, a Realtor. Both candidates are from Skokie.

Romano, 49, displays strong knowledge of the state’s pension crisis, and backs a pension reform amendment to the Illinois Constitution to get Springfield’s moribund financial outlook back on track. Romano also correctly cites the massive waste that comes with Illinois’ roster of nearly 7,000 units of local government. As he points out, “That’s four times more taxing bodies than Texas, a state with four times the population.”

He also believes Springfield Democrats’ addiction to spending necessitates a department-by-department review to see what chaff can be eliminated. Olickal, a 29-year-old law student, leans too far left. Romano is endorsed.

State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, D-Glenview, celebrates the passage of House Bill 367 in Springfield on May 31, 2021.

State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, D-Glenview, celebrates the passage of House Bill 367 in Springfield on May 31, 2021. (Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, as America was seeing a rise in anti-Asian violence, Democratic incumbent Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz of Glenview stewarded legislation that made Illinois the first state to require Asian American history to be taught in public schools.

“Empathy comes from understanding,” Gong-Gershowitz told us. Her grandparents emigrated from China in the 1920s and feared deportation under the Chinese Exclusion Acts. “A lack of knowledge is the root cause of discrimination, and the best weapon against ignorance is education.” Well said. Her background in immigration and human rights law helps inform her work as the chairperson of the House Immigration and Human Rights Committee, along with the Judiciary-Civil Committee. Her opponent, Bradley Martin of Skokie, hasn’t waged much of a campaign. Gong-Gershowitz is endorsed.

There’s no overlap in views between the two candidates in this North Shore district that includes Evanston, Wilmette and Winnetka.

Democratic incumbent Robyn Gabel of Evanston has held this seat since 2010, and is the House assistant majority leader. She has a history of never veering far from the Democratic leadership agenda. She defends the party’s stewardship of Illinois’ finances, and doesn’t see the need for a constitutional amendment that would reform the abysmal pension system and address its $130 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.

Gabel also supports Amendment 1, which is on the Nov. 8 ballot and would change the Illinois Constitution to give workers a fundamental right to organize. It also would essentially prohibit “right-to-work laws” that ban the requirement of union membership as a condition of employment. Critics say the measure would waste taxpayer money and cast Illinois as an anti-business state. We oppose it.

Gabel’s Republican opponent, Charles Hutchinson, is a Wilmette lawyer who opposes Amendment 1 because he believes workers should have the choice of whether to join a union. Hutchinson has a strong understanding of Illinois’ fiscal woes, and believes a pension reform amendment must be integral to solving the pension crisis. He’s on the mark when he says that ever-rising property taxes in Illinois are a function of the massive redundancy in taxing bodies, along with the continuing exodus of people, businesses and jobs from the state.

He also echoes a point we’ve been making the last few years — Illinois must move faster to remove lead pipes from the state’s drinking water infrastructure. It’s time for a change in the 18th District. Hutchinson is endorsed.

Rep. Lindsey LaPointe, D-Chicago, talks about her legislation to expand mental health resources for first responders on April 4, 2022, in Springfield.

Rep. Lindsey LaPointe, D-Chicago, talks about her legislation to expand mental health resources for first responders on April 4, 2022, in Springfield. (John O’Connor/AP)

Democratic incumbent Lindsey LaPointe makes a strong case for Illinois to address what she calls its “training gap.” Though unemployment is down, segments of Illinois’ population struggle with higher unemployment rates because they lack the training and skills to work in available jobs.

“We need to create pathways to good-paying jobs for every resident, not just those who want and are able to attend a four-year college,” LaPointe told us, “and we can do this through the expansion of career and technical education.” That’s something we’ve backed before — vocational training and apprenticeship programs that get the workforce ready for a changing, increasingly IT-oriented economy.

LaPointe, who has represented this Far Northwest Side district since her appointment to the seat in 2019, also supports taking the responsibility for decennial remapping away from the state legislature and giving it to a nonpartisan commission. That’s something we also advocate. Her GOP opponent, Michael Harn, has not been waging much of a campaign. We endorse LaPointe.

Abdelnasser Rashid, Democrat running for the Illinois House 21st District seat, on June 8, 2022.

Abdelnasser Rashid, Democrat running for the Illinois House 21st District seat, on June 8, 2022. (James C. Svehla/for the Chicago Tribune)

This district includes parts of the Southwest Side and southwest suburbs. The lawmaker who represented it before remapping, Michael Zalewski, lost in the Democratic primary in June to Abdelnasser Rashid of southwest suburban Justice, who worked as field director for Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s 2015 mayoral run and as deputy chief of staff to David Orr when he was Cook County clerk.

Rashid faces Matthew Schultz, executive director of Taxpayers United of America, a taxpayer advocacy group. Schultz, 27, is a moderate Republican from west suburban Brookfield who sees no need to change Illinois’ current abortion law. We like Schultz’s energy and his stance that Illinois’ overreliance on taxes is sending people and jobs out of the state.

Rashid, however, has a strong background that should serve him well. He backs getting rid of units of local government that are duplicative, and wants to take on public utility corruption, a worthy mission in the wake of the federal investigation into Madigan, ComEd and AT&T. We endorsed Rashid in the primary, and we endorse him again.

In this Southwest Side district, incumbent Democrat Angie Guerrero-Cuellar was appointed in February 2021 to replace Madigan, who awaits trial on federal corruption charges. Before joining the General Assembly, Guerrero-Cuellar worked as a community services worker involved in COVID-19 education, contact tracing and safety outreach. The Tribune also reported that she worked on the campaign of Angie Sandoval, who unsuccessfully ran for Cook County Board commissioner in 2018. Sandoval is the daughter of the late former Sen. Martin Sandoval, who pleaded guilty to bribery and tax charges stemming from the federal red-light camera investigation. Guerrero-Cuellar chose not to participate in the Tribune’s endorsement process.

Her Republican opponent, Carlos Alvarez, is an insurance agent who backs a referendum asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment on pension reform, and strengthening ethics reform in Springfield. “I represent a natural, fresh change to the district,” Alvarez told us. We agree that this district needs a fresh change. Alvarez is endorsed.

Rep. Edgar Gonzalez Jr. currently represents the 21st District, but with the remap he is now running in this Southwest Side district, which includes Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. He’s been in the General Assembly since January 2020. He chose not to participate in the Tribune endorsement process.

His GOP opponent, Lupe Castillo, is a Walgreens pharmacy technician who believes election fraud tainted the 2020 presidential election. She told us there should have been “a new election immediately after.” Face it, Joe Biden was legitimately elected president. We make no endorsement in this race.

Rep. Justin Slaughter talks before Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed HB 3653, a sweeping criminal justice and police reform bill, on Feb. 22, 2021, at Chicago State University.

Rep. Justin Slaughter talks before Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed HB 3653, a sweeping criminal justice and police reform bill, on Feb. 22, 2021, at Chicago State University. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

Since 2017, Justin Slaughter has been the Democratic incumbent for this district, which includes the South Side neighborhoods of Auburn Gresham, Roseland, Morgan Park and West Pullman, along with south suburban Alsip, Blue Island, Crestwood, Midlothian, Orland Park, Palos Heights, Palos Park and Robbins.

Slaughter says it’s time for comprehensive reform at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, a beleaguered agency with a vast array of problems, including a shortage of proper shelter for children in its care. We’ve said many times this agency, one of the state’s most important functions, needs a massive overhaul. Slaughter’s Republican opponent is Beth O’Neil from Orland Park. Slaughter 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 31, 2022 at 07:06AM

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