Editorial: For Illinois House: Kifowit, Metcalfe, Preston, Smith, Russell, Marron, Elik, Schmidt, Jacobs

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

Rep. Stephanie Kifowit speaks during a joint Illinois House and Senate committee hearing in Chicago on Jan. 9, 2018, on problems at the state-run veterans home in Quincy.

Rep. Stephanie Kifowit speaks during a joint Illinois House and Senate committee hearing in Chicago on Jan. 9, 2018, on problems at the state-run veterans home in Quincy. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)

The norm among Democrats in Springfield is to toe the party line. Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego is one of the outliers. She spoke out against the Michael Madigan-led Democratic Party during the budget impasse years, and she voted against her party when Madigan put out unbalanced spending plans. With the former House speaker now awaiting trial on corruption charges, Kifowit says the General Assembly must ratchet up ethics reform with expanded whistleblower protections and enhanced authority for the legislative inspector general’s office.

Her GOP opponent, Joe West, is the Oswego Township supervisor. He correctly states that Illinois should consolidate layers of redundant government and look into pension reform that puts new workers into 401(k)-style retirement plans. Kifowit, however, is the better choice and gets our endorsement.

This Will County district includes parts of Bolingbrook, Romeoville and Lockport. Republican Chris Metcalfe of Bolingbrook says property tax relief starts with Springfield ending the practice of slapping unfunded mandates onto local governments. Illinois should also put more into education funding, he says, which accounts for a chunk of property tax bills. And township governments that duplicate what the local municipality does should be eliminated. He is endorsed over Dagmara “Dee” Avelar, the Democratic incumbent, who is also from Bolingbrook.

Democratic incumbent Lawrence Walsh Jr. faces GOP contender Scott Greene in this mostly Will County district. Both candidates are from Elwood. No endorsement.

Small business owner Scott Preston of Normal is a moderate Republican who puts pension reform as his top priority. “It is vital for the fiscal future of our state,” he told us. He was on the Normal Town Council when the community landed electric vehicle-maker Rivian Automotive, a development win that created more than 6,000 jobs. His familiarity with economic development strategies is a plus. His Democratic opponent, Sharon Chung, is a professional violinist and a McLean County Board member. Preston is endorsed.

In this Peoria-area district, Democratic incumbent Jehan Gordon-Booth faces Republican challenger and pastor Ben Watt. No endorsement in this race.

Republican Lisa Smith of Blue Mound faces Democratic incumbent Sue Scherer of Decatur. No endorsement.

When Republican Michelle Smith served on the Plainfield District 202 school board, she had to agree to budget trims that drew blowback from the community. “Despite the pushback we knew we would experience, we did what we had to do,” Smith, who is now the Plainfield Township clerk, told us. That’s a mindset needed in Springfield. She also believes it’s time for a leadership change at DCFS, where there’s been a shortage of proper shelter for children in the agency’s care. Democrat Harry Benton is a Plainfield village trustee. Smith is endorsed.

Homeowners in this Will County district that includes Bolingbrook, Crest Hill and Joliet have been telling Donna Russell that sky-high property taxes are forcing them to leave Illinois. Russell, a 74-year-old Republican from Bolingbrook, says that should be sufficient motivation for Illinois to enact a freeze on property assessments. She’s running a grassroots campaign against Democratic incumbent Natalie Manley from Joliet, who we have taken to task before for voting for higher taxes and unbalanced budgets. Russell is endorsed.

Republican Mike Marron is shown in April 2014 preparing equipment on his farm near Fithian.

Republican Mike Marron is shown in April 2014 preparing equipment on his farm near Fithian. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune)

Manufacturers have been leaving this eastern Illinois district because they can’t find enough workers with needed skills, says state Rep. Mike Marron, a Republican and lifelong farmer who has represented this district since 2018. Providing job training for the kind of work those employers are involved in is the answer, says Marron, who’s from the small town of Fithian. Marron says he favors problem-solving rather than party ideology. He’s running against Democrat Cynthia Cunningham of St. Joseph, whom he defeated in 2020 and 2018. As we have before, we endorse Marron.

As Madigan awaits trial in his corruption case, his state pension has ballooned to $149,000 a year. That’s more than $12,400 a month, and it’s the kind of confounding situation that GOP incumbent Amy Elik of downstate Alton wants to stop. She has introduced legislation that would suspend the pension benefits of lawmakers charged with crimes associated with their service while they await the outcome of their trials. That’s smart, ethical lawmaking. Elik has been a certified public accountant for more than two decades, and that expertise serves her well as she deals with the challenges posed by Springfield’s moribund fiscal picture. We enthusiastically endorse her over Democrat Joe Silkwood of East Alton.

Democratic incumbent Katie Stuart faces Republican Jennifer Korte, a stay-at-home mom. Both candidates are from downstate Edwardsville. No endorsement.

Republican Ashley Hunsaker of Belleville is a small business owner who supports eliminating Illinois’ firearm owner’s identification card. Given the prevalence of gun violence in this state, that would be a step in the wrong direction. Democratic incumbent Jay Hoffman of Swansea opted not to participate in our endorsement process. We make no endorsement in this race.

According to the Florida Department of Education, Florida has 75 public school districts and a 2020 population of 21 million. And Illinois? This state has 859 school districts and a population of 12.5 million. Those statistics scream for some measure of consolidation, says Republican Kevin Schmidt, a chiropractor from downstate Millstadt. There’s a lot of administrative duplication that can be eliminated through such consolidation, which would help bring down property taxes. Schmidt, who is running against Democratic incumbent LaToya Greenwood of East St. Louis, gets our endorsement.

Republican incumbent Paul Jacobs of Pomona has a simple message for Democrats. To make Illinois attractive to businesses again, Springfield must stop its tax-and-spend policies. “We are far from business-friendly,” he told WSIU last month. He currently has the 115th District seat, but with the remap is now running in the 118th District. He’s running against Democrat Van Ikner of Carbondale.

Jacobs 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 4, 2022 at 07:01AM

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