Editorial: For Illinois House: Pettorini, Dias, Reick, Weber, Robertson, Ness, West, Sosnowski, Swanson, Henry, Haskell, Hernandez, Haas, DeLuca, Stava-Murray, Wheeler – Chicago Tribune

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

Democrat Joyce Mason, of Gurnee, hasn’t really distinguished herself during her first two terms for this Lake County district that borders Wisconsin. Her Republican opponent, Peter Pettorini of Lindenhurst, is a high school English teacher who puts pension reform as Illinois’ top priority. “As a teacher paying into the system, I know something must be done because the current path is not sustainable,” he told us. Pettorini is endorsed.

Democrat Laura Faver Dias is running for the Illinois House 62nd District seat.

Democrat Laura Faver Dias is running for the Illinois House 62nd District seat.
(Campaign photo)

This became an open seat with Democrat Sam Yingling’s decision to run for the Illinois Senate. Both candidates, Democrat Laura Faver Dias and Republican Adam Shores, have experience on the Grayslake Village Board, which has a fiscal approach that made the community debt-free and ensured that the police pension is 96% funded. We give the edge to Dias. She is staunchly pro-abortion rights, backs creation of an independent commission to take over decennial remapping and wants to see campaign finance reform that combats the influence of “dark” or undisclosed campaign cash. Dias is endorsed.

Republican Steven Reick has thrown his hat into the ring for the Illinois House 63rd District seat.

Republican Steven Reick has thrown his hat into the ring for the Illinois House 63rd District seat. (Campaign photo)

Republican incumbent Steven Reick, of Woodstock, has been a strong voice for fiscal responsibility since 2017. He told us the amount of money Gov. J.B. Pritzker is setting aside to chip away at Illinois’ massive pension debt is not nearly enough, or as he puts it, “nothing more than a rounding error.” Reick also says the state must take on much more of the burden of funding public education, but in doing so, should give parents more opportunity for school choice. His Democratic opponent is Brian Meyers of Crystal Lake. Reick is endorsed.

State Rep. Tom Weber, of Lake Villa, is running to retain his seat in the Illinois House 64th District race.

State Rep. Tom Weber, of Lake Villa, is running to retain his seat in the Illinois House 64th District race.
(Campaign photo)

Republican incumbent Tom Weber, of Lake Villa, abides by a no-nonsense philosophy toward budgeting. Don’t spend beyond your means, and then ramp up taxes to catch up. More often than not, that’s the Democrats’ approach. “Continued tax hikes will only inflict more damage on Illinois’ economy and drive more residents and employers out of our state,” Weber told us. Democratic challenger Rick Konter is a retired mechanic from Ingleside who says regulations are overburdening Illinois businesses. Our endorsement goes to Weber.

Democrat Linda Robertson, of St. Charles, makes a strong point about the makeup of the Illinois House, which she says, “has numerous lawyers like my opponent, but few scientists who are trained in problem-solving complex, technical problems.”

“Scientists work collaboratively,” she continued to tell us. “As an international consultant who has worked in facilities around the world, I have learned to listen to other voices.”

Robertson is a retired industrial microbiologist who is staunchly pro-abortion rights and backs the kinds of gun control measures we support, including a ban on military-style firearms, a national red flag law and background checks for gun show sales. Unlike many fellow Democrats, she also backs a constitutional amendment referendum seeking reform of the state’s broken pension system and a referendum asking voters to reform Illinois’ decennial remapping process.

Her opponent, Republican incumbent Dan Ugaste, of Geneva, is a lawyer who has gotten our endorsement in the past. But Robertson’s stances hew more closely to ours and she is endorsed.

State Rep. Suzanne Ness, D-Crystal Lake, is running to keep her seat in the Illinois House 66th District race.

State Rep. Suzanne Ness, D-Crystal Lake, is running to keep her seat in the Illinois House 66th District race. (Campaign photo)

Republican challenger Connie Cain, of Gilberts, has the right mindset on how to get Illinois’ financial outlook back on track. She backs pension reform and consolidating school districts to cut down on administrative costs. But she’s also ardently anti-abortion, and with the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, that issue has become paramount. Democratic incumbent Suzanne Ness, of Crystal Lake, is pro-abortion rights and an advocate of stronger gun control. Ness needs to rethink her assertion that Illinois is on track to fix its broken pension system. It’s not. That said, while it’s a close call, our endorsement goes to Ness.

Illinois state Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, is seen on May 31, 2021.

Illinois state Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, is seen on May 31, 2021. (Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register)

Democratic incumbent Maurice West, of Rockford, says he wants to head up a pension reform working group that will take up the existential issue of the state’s pension crisis. “We can no longer beat around the bush or put a Band-Aid on the issue by kicking the can down the road,” West told us, using a cascading series of popular metaphors. Not every Democrat thinks Illinois has a pension problem, so West’s enthusiasm for tackling the crisis is welcome. He’s endorsed over Republican Glen Oland, of Rockford, who hasn’t waged much of a campaign.

Republican Jonathan Ojeda, of Belvidere, faces Democratic incumbent Dave Vella, of Rockford. No endorsement.

Republican Joe Sosnowski is running in the 69th Illinois House District race.

Republican Joe Sosnowski is running in the 69th Illinois House District race. (Campaign photo)

State Rep. Joe Sosnowski, a Republican from Rockford, has built a strong record for voting for reining in wasteful spending and out-of-control property taxes. We also lauded him in 2019 for voting against the Democrat-led legislation to have Chicago Public Schools governed by an elected school board, a move that paves the way for the Chicago Teachers Union, with its manpower and money, to turn the board into its proxy.

Sosnowski wants to establish a statewide cap on how much property taxes can rise annually. He also backs referendums seeking a constitutional amendment on pension reform and a redistricting overhaul. He’s running against Marengo Democrat Peter Janko, a retired owner of a historic lighting restoration business. Sosnowski gets our endorsement.

Rep. Dan Swanson, R-Alpha, is seen on the Illinois House floor at the State Capitol in Springfield on Jan. 29, 2020.

Rep. Dan Swanson, R-Alpha, is seen on the Illinois House floor at the State Capitol in Springfield on Jan. 29, 2020. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune)

We oppose politicians having the ability to tap into their campaign coffers to pay for their own legal defense when they’re charged with crimes or face civil suits involving corruption, discrimination or sexual harassment claims. Republican lawmaker Dan Swanson, of downstate Alpha, feels the same way. We’ve endorsed him in the past, lauding his commitment to fiscal stewardship and ethics reform. Swanson is the 74th District representative, but the decennial remap now has him in the 71st. He’s running against Democrat Christopher Demink, a retired electrician from Sherrard. Swanson is endorsed.

Republican Tom Martens, a mechanic from Rock Island, believes the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Wrong. His Democratic opponent, Gregg Johnson, a retired state worker and labor organizer from East Moline, did not participate in the Tribune’s endorsement process. No endorsement.

This district combines the exurbs of Kendall and DeKalb counties with the rural communities of LaSalle and Grundy counties. Marseilles Democrat Heidi Henry, who owns a horse farm, is strongly pro-abortion rights and in the past has stated her support for gun control measures such as universal background checks and red flag laws that aim to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who show signs of erratic or threatening behavior. Her GOP opponent, Jed Davis, of Newark, has gun rights positions that we regard as too extreme. He would eliminate both the state’s red flag law and the firearm owner’s identification card. He also supports banning abortions without exceptions. Henry is endorsed.

Illinois’ capital budget for 2023 is $46.5 billion. That’s not something to celebrate, says Republican Jason Haskell, a construction manager from downstate Peru. “Our state’s spending problem is now causing a revenue problem, as people flee in droves to fiscally conservative states across the nation,” Haskell told us. His prescription — no more wasteful spending or new programs until the state’s fiscal house is in order. He also backs “unobstructed authority” for the legislative inspector general’s office to investigate complaints against lawmakers and their staff. He’s running against incumbent Lance Yednock, of Ottawa, a moderate Democrat. Haskell is endorsed.

Democrat Norma Hernandez, of Melrose Park, is an urban planner at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Great Cities Institute, which gives her a valuable skill set to bring to the General Assembly if elected. The district, which includes Melrose Park, Northlake, Franklin Park and Bensenville, is predominantly Latino. “I reflect the very community I seek to represent,” she told us. She advocates for a community-based approach to fighting violent crime, including ramping up social services and resources for youths. Her opponent, Anthony Airdo, also of Melrose Park, hasn’t put together much of a campaign. Hernandez is endorsed.

Republican Jackie Haas is running for the Illinois House 79th District seat.

Republican Jackie Haas is running for the Illinois House 79th District seat. (Campaign photo)

Republican incumbent Jackie Haas, of Bourbonnais, says Pritzker should have devoted more funding in the upcoming budget into the state’s massive debt obligations. “We need to fulfill our payment obligations in the budget and eliminate wasteful spending and pork projects,” she says. Pay what you owe first, before ramping up spending. If only Pritzker would adopt that mindset. Her Democratic opponent, Erin Slone, of south suburban Park Forest, wants to see Illinois become an innovation hub as the state transitions to green energy. That’s smart thinking, but Haas’ experience and commitment to smart budgeting makes her the better choice. Haas is endorsed.

State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, is seen on March 14, 2019, before the Illinois House Appropriations-Capital Committee.

State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, is seen on March 14, 2019, before the Illinois House Appropriations-Capital Committee. (State Rep. Anthony DeLuca)

Democratic incumbent Anthony DeLuca, of Chicago Heights, represents Southland suburbs in dire need of an economic boost. Earlier this year, he responded with the Southland Reactivation Act, legislation that will stoke investment in underutilized commercial and industrial parcels in the Southland suburbs by assessing them at half of their equalized assessed value and capping the property’s tax liability at a maximum of $100,000. That’s a measure directly addressing the needs of his district. DeLuca’s GOP opponent, Al Kuypers Sr., of far south suburban Manhattan, wants to end abortions in Illinois. “God will bless this state if we end abortions,” Kuypers said on a YouTube campaign message. DeLuca is endorsed.

Anne Stava-Murray, D-Naperville, is seen on the Illinois House floor at the State Capitol in Springfield on Jan. 29, 2020.

Anne Stava-Murray, D-Naperville, is seen on the Illinois House floor at the State Capitol in Springfield on Jan. 29, 2020. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune)

Long before the feds indicted Michael Madigan, Anne Stava-Murray, of Naperville, was the lone Democratic voice unwilling to back his continued tenure as House speaker. That was in 2019, when Madigan was embroiled in a sexual harassment probe involving people among his ranks. She also refused to accept campaign help from him and the Madigan-led Democratic Party. That’s backbone we admire. She also works to proactively address gun violence and backed expanded use of highway cameras to help identify and track down perpetrators of expressway shootings, a growing problem in recent years. Her Republican opponent, Paul Leong, is a Naperville City Council member and a financial strategy specialist. He supports pension reform and revamping the decennial remap process. Stava-Murray is the clear choice. She is endorsed.

State Rep. Keith Wheeler, of Oswego, is running for the Illinois House 83rd District seat.

State Rep. Keith Wheeler, of Oswego, is running for the Illinois House 83rd District seat.
(State Rep. Keith Wheeler)

Republican lawmaker Keith Wheeler, of Oswego, is one of Springfield’s most astute budget watchdogs. He has some sound ideas to fix the mess largely created by Democrats over decades of wasteful spending and underfunding pensions. First, the bipartisan approach to consolidate police and firefighter pensions worked, so the state should broaden it to fix other inefficiencies in the pension system. Second, expand pension buyouts, which whittles down principal and interest on unfunded pension liabilities, and gives pensioners flexibility to plan their retirement as they see fit with the reduced lump sum amount.

Long term, Wheeler says, Illinois needs to consider the approaches used by high-growth states like Tennessee, which has no income tax and property taxes far lower than those in the Land of Lincoln. The lesson — less taxes mean higher growth. Wheeler is running against Democrat Matt Hanson, of Aurora, a former member of the Kane County Board. In this district, which has been redrawn and includes parts of Geneva, Batavia, Aurora and Oswego, Wheeler is endorsed.

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November 3, 2022 at 06:49AM

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