Editorial: For Illinois House: Jeffery Coleman, Patricia Bonk, Mary Flowers, Carl Kunz, Marcus Evans Jr., Fran Hurley, Tom Toolis, Anthony Curran, Janet Yang Rohr, Stephanie Hood, Anna Moeller – Chicago Tribune

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

We have two problems with the Democratic incumbent, Thaddeus Jones of Calumet City. First, he’s under criminal investigation for tax issues involving his campaign funds, the Tribune reported earlier this year. No charges have been filed yet. Second, he’s a double-dipper — along with receiving a paycheck as a state legislator, he’s also on the municipal payroll as mayor of Calumet City.

You would think both of those red flags would have been enough for voters in this south suburban district to cast him aside in the Democratic primary. Alas, he defeated Calumet City Ald. Monet Wilson in June.

Now he faces Jeffery Coleman, 54, a governmental affairs and community outreach consultant from south suburban Dolton. Coleman is a moderate Republican who’s pro-choice and correctly says that consolidating school districts would save millions of dollars in administrative duplication. Our endorsement goes to Coleman.

30th Illinois Senate District Republican candidate Patricia Bonk attends a fundraiser for 18th District Republican candidate Christine Shanahan McGovern, not pictured, on Sept. 29, 2022, in Merrionette Park.

30th Illinois Senate District Republican candidate Patricia Bonk attends a fundraiser for 18th District Republican candidate Christine Shanahan McGovern, not pictured, on Sept. 29, 2022, in Merrionette Park. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)

We have to go back to 2002 to find the last time we endorsed in this district, which includes the south suburbs of Harvey, Midlothian, Markham, Homewood and Flossmoor. Back then, Democrat William “Will” Davis of Homewood was a deputy district administrator for then-U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

We didn’t endorse him in either the primary or the general election that year. He won, and since then he has run uncontested in every primary and general election for this district except for the 2010 general election, when he defeated a write-in candidate who got less than 1% of the vote.

Now, finally, Davis has serious competition. Republican Patricia Bonk is a registered nurse from Midlothian who backs pension reform, overhauling the decennial remap process and consolidating school districts that have only one or two schools within their boundaries. Like us, she also believes it’s time for Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Director Marc Smith to step down from that troubled agency. Bonk gets our endorsement.

Democratic state Rep. Mary Flowers, chairwoman of the Care Availability Access Committee, asks questions during hearings on pharmacists’ working conditions.

Democratic state Rep. Mary Flowers, chairwoman of the Care Availability Access Committee, asks questions during hearings on pharmacists’ working conditions. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune )

Ronald Reagan was president when Democrat Mary Flowers was first elected to this district in 1985. Since then she has built a reputation as a strong advocate for neglected and abused children and a vocal watchdog of DCFS.

She backs putting on the ballot a referendum to change the state constitution so that future decennial remaps would be done by an independent citizens commission. At the same time, however, she correctly points out that “redistricting needs to take place through changes to federal law so every state creates districts under the same rules.” We also like her idea to set up a new “211″ service line that would connect families with state, county and nonprofit resources.

Her Republican opponent, Oak Lawn dentist Kenneth Yerkes, has positions on pension reform and local government consolidation that align with ours. But through 37 years, Flowers has served her district well. She is endorsed.

Last year, Democrats appointed Cyril Nichols, the associate director for athletics at City Colleges of Chicago, to replace 32nd District state Rep. Andre Thapedi, who stepped down after 12 years in office. Nichols is now running to keep his seat and faces Hickory Hills Republican Carl Kunz, a retired chief compliance officer. The district includes the Grand Crossing, Ashburn and Englewood neighborhoods on the South Side, along with south suburban Burbank and Hickory Hills.

Nichols did not participate in our endorsement process. Kunz is a fiscal and social conservative who says many of Illinois’ 850-plus school districts can be consolidated along with 17 townships that have duplicate boundaries with municipalities. He also backs pension reform and remaps carried out by an independent nonpartisan commission. Kunz is endorsed.

The race in this South Side district pits Democratic incumbent Marcus Evans Jr. against Republican Quintin Barton, a 38-year-old gig worker from the South Deering neighborhood. Evans, a resident of the Avalon Park neighborhood, has been in office since 2012. Evans has capably represented this district, where constituents tell him crime and unemployment are pressing issues for them.

He told us he has worked to ensure inmates get a second chance through ample job opportunities after their release. He also wants to focus on finding ways that government can help improve access to capital for South Side small businesses that historically have been denied that access by the banking system. “Having them depend on traditional loans is not a solution,” Evans told us. Evans is endorsed.

Democratic incumbent Nicholas “Nick” Smith faces Crete Republican Frederick Walls in the race for this district, which stretches from the Far South Side into Kankakee County. Smith has been in office since 2018. Walls believes anyone over 70 shouldn’t pay taxes, and that noncitizens should pay higher taxes than citizens. No endorsement in this race.

State Rep. Fran Hurley, D-Chicago, speaks in the riding arena of the Chicago School for Agricultural Sciences on Sept. 2, 2022.

State Rep. Fran Hurley, D-Chicago, speaks in the riding arena of the Chicago School for Agricultural Sciences on Sept. 2, 2022. (Michael Gard / Pioneer Press)

We’re pleased that Democratic incumbent Fran Hurley of Chicago formed the Illinois House Moderate Caucus, a group of lawmakers that she says is “focused on getting solutions and a balanced approach to governing.” In this era of political extremes, a more balanced, centrist path to solving issues makes sense.

Hurley showed she didn’t have to always toe the party line when she voted against the SAFE-T Act that overhauls the Illinois criminal justice system, after she listened to concerns from law enforcement about the bill. Hurley’s opponent in this district, which stretches from the Far Southwest Side to the southwest suburbs, is Republican Herbert Hebein, a retired Chicago police officer whom she defeated in 2020 and 2018. Our endorsement goes to Hurley.

Democratic incumbent Kelly Burke of Evergreen Park faces Republican David Sheppard, the police chief of south suburban Robbins. This district includes Evergreen Park, Oak Lawn, Chicago Ridge and Palos Hills. No endorsement.

This district includes all or parts of several southwest suburbs, including Country Club Hills, Frankfort, Richton Park, Oak Forest, Hazel Crest, Matteson, Olympia Fields and Tinley Park.

Republican Tom Toolis is a lawyer from Frankfort who backs a pension reform referendum to change the state constitution because “we must not give up on solving the biggest driver of state debt — our unfunded pension liability.” Toolis wants to require transparency in the budgeting process, balanced budgets and term limits for lawmakers. He also wants to give taxpayers the authority to petition for referendums to dissolve or combine duplicative or unneeded units of local government.

He’s trying to unseat incumbent Democrat Debbie Meyers-Martin, the former mayor of Olympia Fields, who did not take part in our endorsement process. Toolis is endorsed.

Incumbent Democrat Will Guzzardi is a loud progressive voice in Springfield who has rankled us a number of times with shortsighted measures and votes.

Last year he wanted to combat gentrification — certainly an important, complicated issue in many Chicago neighborhoods — by proposing legislation that would repeal Illinois’ ban on rent control. That’s not good for neighborhoods for two reasons. Rent caps squeeze the supply of housing because they encourage landlords to convert units to condos or to sell to owner-occupants. Also, rent control discourages apartment owners from pouring more money into upkeep of their properties, because those additional costs wouldn’t be offset by rising rents. Rent control means fewer units, less investment in existing apartment buildings, and ultimately, stagnating property values.

We also recall that he voted for legislation in 2016 to hand powerhouse utility ComEd a rate hike that would bail out two nuclear plants the company was threatening to close. Former House Speaker Michael Madigan ushered through the measure, and Guzzardi voted in lockstep with the Democratic leadership, along with a host of other lawmakers. The ComEd bailout bill came at a time when Illinois’ budget standoff was ballooning the state’s unpaid bills backlog and forcing social service agencies to close.

Guzzardi’s Republican opponent, Anthony Curran, is an investment manager from Bucktown. He’s the clear underdog, but he correctly backs asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment that would clear the way for pension reform, and sees the need to rein in property tax hikes. Curran is endorsed.

Democratic incumbent Janet Yang Rohr from west suburban Naperville is right when she says Illinois should not take for granted its status as a pro-choice state. The makeup of the Illinois Supreme Court hangs in the balance, and nearby states with abortion bans could set their sights on Illinois doctors and clinics that provide abortions to women from those states who travel to Illinois for the procedure. “If we don’t fight for our reproductive rights here in Illinois, our rights can slip away,” she said during a recent League of Women Voters forum.

Her opponent, Rich Janor, also of Naperville, owns a sporting events company and is a Naperville Park District commissioner. During the forum, Janor was careful with his answer, saying that the “recent Supreme Court decision doesn’t change anything here in Illinois. Illinois remains one of the most permissive states in the country for abortion.”

Yang Rohr also said that, in the wake of recent mass shootings in north suburban Highland Park and Uvalde, Texas, she is sponsoring a bill to ban assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines. That’s something we also support. In this district, which includes Naperville, and parts of Warrenville and Bolingbrook, Yang Rohr is endorsed.

Two strong candidates are vying for this redrawn DuPage County district, which includes Glen Ellyn, Lombard, Downers Grove, Lisle and Wheaton. Before the remap, it was the 48th District, where Democrat Terra Costa Howard of Glen Ellyn has been the incumbent since she defeated Republican Peter Breen in 2018.

Howard’s ascent reflects the recent trend toward voters increasingly opting for Democrats in the northwest and west suburbs. Howard is a capable lawmaker who told us she wants to end gerrymandering by having an independent citizens commission take up the task of decennial redistricting. But as her GOP opponent, Stephanie Hood, points out, Howard voted in favor of the current remap engineered by Democrats behind closed doors — a heavily partisan exercise that cements Democrats’ stranglehold on Springfield for the next decade.

Hood, a 39-year-old lawyer from Glen Ellyn, correctly sees the state’s current pension crisis as “a threat to the short-term and long-term fiscal stability of Illinois and the essential services provided to citizens.” She backs putting on the ballot a referendum asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment paving the way for pension reform. Hood also is pro-choice, and backs freezing or capping property tax increases to keep residents and businesses from fleeing to states with less onerous tax burdens. Hood is endorsed.

Rep. Anna Moeller, with the Appropriations-Human Services Committee, questions the heads of DCFS during a budget request meeting in April 2019 at the Michael Bilandic Building.

Rep. Anna Moeller, with the Appropriations-Human Services Committee, questions the heads of DCFS during a budget request meeting in April 2019 at the Michael Bilandic Building. (Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune)

This Kane County district that includes Elgin and Carpentersville has been represented by Democrat Anna Moeller since 2014. One area Moeller has focused on is the nursing home industry. As chairperson of the House Human Services Committee, she has worked to ensure that nursing homes where negligence occurs are held accountable. She helped guide legislation ensuring the large amount of state funding assistance received by nursing homes is spent to bolster staff and quality, and handled transparently.

Moeller, of Elgin, also secured for her district funding for a state-of-the-art manufacturing center at Elgin Community College that will help supply local manufacturers with a trained workforce. Her Republican opponent, Angela Hallock Nowak, is an Elgin teacher who told us, “If I were on a jury and the case in front of me was election fraud in the 2020 election, I’d have a hard time ignoring the evidence that has been presented.”

The evidence is clear — Joe Biden was legitimately elected president. Moeller 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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November 1, 2022 at 06:54AM

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