Criminal justice, reproductive health care and ethics were top of mind for Illinois House and Senate candidates who faced off at a debate Oct. 26.
Two sets of candidates vying to serve districts which include the Park Ridge area appeared at the event. For the Senate race in the 28th District, Park Ridge City Clerk Sal Raspanti, running as a Republican, is challenging incumbent Sen. Laura Murphy, D-Des Plaines.
For the 55th House District, Park Ridge Republican Mike Lupo is challenging incumbent Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines.
Raspanti and Lupo both expressed strong opposition to the Pretrial Fairness Act, also called the SAFE-T Act, which the Illinois General Assembly approved in the final hours of its “lame duck” session in January 2021. The act is set to take full effect Jan. 1, 2023.
Their Democratic opponents were less unified in their view of the act. Murphy said the law was the product of hours of testimony and meetings with law enforcement and other criminal justice stakeholders. While the language might need clarifications, she said, “this is a bill that has a lot of good in it.”
The law, with its provision for ending cash bail, has generated intense controversy and discussion throughout Illinois. It requires Illinois police officers to wear body cameras by 2025, allows more anonymous complaints to be filed against police officers by 2023 and provides for a more robust decertification system for police officers.
Even without cash bail, supporters of the measure say officials will still be able to keep people charged with crimes in custody if they’re deemed a flight risk or dangerous to the public.
Moylan was one of a handful of Democrats to vote against the measure in 2021 and emphasized that vote Wednesday, calling it a “get out of jail free card.”
“We need to put the bad guys in jail,” he said.
Lupo also said he opposed the measure but said “just voting no on this bill is not good enough.” He objected to the way the General Assembly approved the act almost two years ago.
“Our legislators should be held accountable for the way this bill was passed,” he said. “There is need for criminal justice reform, but not like this and not under the cover of darkness the way this was written.”
Raspanti said he supports certain aspects of the law, like the body camera and improved training requirements, but accused Democrats of trying to “dilute” the impact of the bill and of being in denial.
Murphy said the SAFE-T Act has been the target of intense misinformation and doubled down on stakeholder input on the measure.
“Every person has the right to feel safe in their neighborhoods and their homes,” she said.
And, Murphy added, the reforms in the bill were “reforms that the community demanded.”
“Everyone said we need some reforms,” she said. “We need to provide an opportunity for the police to have some protections. We need to give them the tools that they need to do their jobs.”
She said the law “absolutely” needed more work, but also called her opponents’ characterization of the law into question, asking, “has there been tons of misinformation on this panel already? Absolutely.”
The summer U.S. Supreme Court decision removing federal protections for abortion rights in Dobbs. vs. Mississippi has charged races at the local, state and federal level. In Illinois — a “haven state” where a full complement of reproductive health care remains available to people seeking abortions — Democratic lawmakers have campaigned on keeping abortions accessible to both Illinoisans and people coming into the state for the procedure.
Lupo said his experience of finding out that his son would be born with significant health problems informed his stance on abortion. He said he knew “what’s right for one family is not right for another” and would support abortion laws as written in Illinois.
“While our decision unwaveringly was to have our son, I feel and understand the difficulty of this decision for others,” he said. “It’s a decision that doesn’t come without consequence.”
Lupo then took a swipe at Moylan, saying his campaign had sent out misleading mail to voters that called him a danger to reproductive access.
Moylan said that he was “100% pro choice. I believe in a woman’s right to choose.” He added that he stood by the campaign mailers he had sent out about Lupo.
Murphy said she unequivocally supports full reproductive access in Illinois, including the recent repeal of the state’s parental notification law. That law, which state lawmakers rolled back last year, required minors to inform their parents that they were seeking an abortion.
“We had a law in Illinois that required a 12-year-old to go back to their rapist… and to ask them if they could go and seek an abortion,” Murphy said. “85% of children in relationships in the state of Illinois have a relationship where they can talk to their parents, but our job is to protect the most vulnerable in society.”
Raspanti said nothing had changed in Illinois after the Supreme Court decision came down and he would support the status quo in the state.
“In the state of Illinois, women still have access to the full complement of reproductive health options… that’s not going to change with me as a state senator,” Raspanti said.
He added that if elected, he’d be focused on “things I can change: trying to reduce violent crime that’s leaking into our communities, skyrocketing inflation and trying to be an advocate to fight for lower taxes.”
Candidates also debated what to do about the fact that Illinois governors have a habit of going to prison and the longest-serving Speaker of the House in the state’s history was recently indicted for corruption. Most recently, federal prosecutors charged State Sen. Emil Jones with bribery for his involvement with a red light camera company.
Republican challengers seized the opportunity to knock their opponents on the state’s continuing reputation for corruption.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s no secret that Illinois has a reputation as the most corrupt political state in the country,” Raspanti said. “People have to be held accountable. That nonsense has to stop and it has no place in this state.”
Raspanti pledged to decline a government pension and pay increases if elected to the General Assembly.
Democratic incumbents pointed to recent changes in state law to tighten rules about who can be a lobbyist, and how soon, after leaving the General Assembly.
Murphy granted that Illinois does have “quite the reputation” for ethical breaches.
“But one of the things I’ll point out is you are hearing about these cases because people are being caught, and they are being investigated,” she said.
Lupo took a harsher view of the issue, which he characterized as “almost verging in a level of organized crime.”
Moylan said he himself was not pulling double duty in the House, and said legislating was his and his colleagues’ only job.
“I can say that myself and none of the other Democratic representatives are lobbyists,” he said. “I think that we have to support and legislate so that none of the legislators are able to profit from their jobs.”
Early voting opened Oct. 24. Election Day is Nov. 8. Cook County residents can check the Cook County Clerk’s website for their polling places and more voting information.
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November 1, 2022 at 07:23PM