by BRIAN NADIG
Democratic primary candidates from Illinois House’s 15th and 19th Districts and Illinois’ 10th Senate District discussed their backgrounds, experiences and key issues at a “meet and greet” on June 16 at the Copernicus Center Annex, 5214 W. Lawrence Ave.
About 120 people attended the event, which was sponsored by the Jefferson Park and Gladstone Park Chambers of Commerce, Jefferson Park and Gladstone Park Neighborhood Associations and Jefferson Park Forward. Candidates were asked to focus on the issues and refrain from personal attacks. On the Republican side of the races, either no candidate is running at that time, or the candidate is uncontested.
State Representative Lindsey LaPointe was first appointed to the seat of the 19th House District in 2019, then elected to a two-year term in 2020. The district includes Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Old Irving Park, Dunning and parts of Gladstone Park.
“I was a social worker-turned-policy advocate-turned-state representative, and that’s my on-the-ground experience as a social worker, primarily with children with special needs and with seniors on fixed incomes from the northwest side who were struggling to stay home, that was my inspiration to get into political work, first, and then dive into Chicago politics, second,” LaPointe said.
“We have a diversity of political views on the northwest side, … and that’s okay,” LaPointe added. “What we all have in common here on the Northwest side is a commitment to service and a commitment to engage in our communities.”
LaPointe said the last 2 1/2 years have been “really tough” due to the pandemic and families are now having to deal with inflation and the rising cost of living, with public safety being the “ biggest problem” right now. She added that problems call for leaders “who genuinely love” their communities and will be “relentless” in solving problems.
LaPointe said the increase in gun violence began in March 2020 when “everyone’s structure and routines were shaken up” due to the pandemic, which prevented some students from completing high school. She said there were too many illegal firearms on the streets and it was important to support and fund law enforcement, but also invest in ‘frontline’ community organizations who work to reduce violence.
Tina Wallace, who is challenging LaPointe in the Democratic primary for the 19th District seat, has worked in the real estate industry for 35 years and founded Barriers Against Repeated Cruelty, a networking and fundraising channel for animals in need.
“Throughout my career I’ve noticed that most owners are male, and I didn’t like it that much, so I worked hard and I’m proud to say I’m a female owner. a little company. Girls, never give up. You can break the glass ceiling,” Wallace said.
Wallace said the message she is getting from residents on the campaign trail is clear. “They’re unhappy and they don’t feel safe…mothers who don’t want their kids to play in the front yard,” and seniors who are too scared to leave their homes, and residents who want to buy gasoline while their kids are in the car, Wallace said.
“People ask me why I run. I am tired of what is happening in our community. We need practical, common-sense solutions,” Wallace said.
“Through my experiences, I’ve learned to negotiate and listen and stand up for what’s right and not back down and bring people who are on opposite ends of the spectrum together for a meeting of the minds,” Wallace said.
Wallace said she supports a cap on how much property tax bills can go up each year.
Wallace also criticized House Bill 3653, which calls for law enforcement reforms, as a “radical ideology” that will make it harder for police to root out trespassers, allow “accused of violent crimes to walk free” and will ease the sentences of those convicted to be reduced, she said.
State Representative Mike Kelly was appointed to the 15th House District seat in 2021, replacing John D’Amico. He is an 18-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department and athletic director at Saint Edward School. The district includes Mayfair, Edgebrook, Sauganash and the northern part of Gladstone Park.
“My whole life has been dedicated to public service, whether at the fire station or as a community volunteer,” Kelly said.
“Since I got the (House) nomination six months ago, I’ve started meeting with community groups and knocking on voters’ doors, just to hear what their concerns are,” Kelly said. “I co-sponsored 95 bills, 37 of which became law.”
Kelly said some of the laws he has supported call for increased funding for education, public safety and violence prevention and more protection for women’s right to choose.
“I really love this community and I represent the 15th District,” Kelly said. He added that as a first responder, he has seen the effects of crime and that his experience as a firefighter will help him better deal with the problem in Springfield. “When I knock on doors, the first thing I hear about is crime.”
Kelly said he supports ‘common sense’ gun safety legislation, including an expansion of background checks, and that Illinois must work with neighboring states to curb the flow of guns illegal. He said supporting mental health programs can play an important role in addressing violence and other issues.
Michael Rabbitt, who is challenging Kelly for the 15th House District headquarters, works at Argonne National Laboratory where he leads a team that focuses on problem solving.
“I am the eldest of six children, growing up we were taught the importance of service, faith, compassion, hard work, justice and inclusion, and these values have shaped this who I am and what I have done in my life as a husband, parent, organizer, coach and community leader,” Rabbitt said.
Rabbitt said as a representative he would commit to “ethical and transparent government” and advocate for policies that support working families, including more affordable housing. “I worked alongside the community to make sure new developments were approved, funded, and built, and more developments were on the way,” he said.
“When a hate crime happened in the Cook County Forest Preserve, I co-founded a community organization focused on diversity and inclusion, and we held ‘peace on the reservation’ events,” said Rabbitt. He added that he had also developed a Ministry of Racial and Social Justice.
“Doing this work, I always challenge myself, what can I do to have a bigger impact,” Rabbitt said. “My vision is an Illinois where people thrive.”
Rabbitt added that it is essential to address the “root causes of violence” and the need for well-paying jobs in disadvantaged communities and to fund mental health and violence intervention programs. “Public safety is the foundation of thriving communities,” he said.
State Senator Robert Martwick, a lawyer, was elected in 2012 as the State Representative for the 19th District, but in 2019 he was appointed to the 10th District Senate seat after John Mulroe left the Senate to become a judge.
“When I ran 10 years ago, I ran because I saw a society, a business world, a government that didn’t stand up for the middle class, and I wanted to come down (to Springfield) and do a difference,” Martwick said.
Martwick said his goals include contributing to bipartisan cooperation, creating an elected school board in Chicago, and approving a progressive state income tax that “would give middle-class people and of the working class a tax break” and make the richest “pay a little more.
Martwick said Chicagoans will begin voting in a school board in 2024 and he will continue to fight for state income tax changes. He said he was able to win bipartisan support to override former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill that makes it easier for family members to collect life insurance benefits.
Martwick said he supports the state’s new ban on “ghost weapons,” which requires serial numbers on guns, but many violent crimes in the state are committed with the use of firearms from other states. He said the state has funded an expansion of the state crime lab to process evidence more quickly, funded crime-fighting technologies such as license plate readers, and provided more resources for mental health programs, some of which are aimed at assisting police officers.
Erin Jones, who is running against Martwick in the Democratic primary for the 10th Senate District seat, became a police officer in 2003. She has worked as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics officer and is currently a detective.
“For those who don’t know me, I’m Erin Jones. I am not a political elitist. I am not an inside politician. What I am is a mother, a wife and a Chicago police detective…and I would be honored if I could come down to Springfield,” Jones said.
Jones said she was raised in a single-parent household where decisions had to be made about whether to pay “the light bill or pay the groceries” and had no health insurance until she became policewoman, relying on Planned Parenthood during her young adult years.
Jones said there has been a 36% increase in serious crime this year in the 16th Police District (Jefferson Park) and that the “reckless” Bill 3653 which ends cash bail and puts in Implementing further law enforcement changes will make the city “less safe” and “vulnerable to the criminal element”.
She added that prosecutorial decisions, including the dropping of thousands of criminal cases, made by County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx have contributed to the city’s crime problems.
“This funding for the police program puts us on a really dangerous path,” Jones said. “We cannot retain veteran officers and recruit new officers.”
Jones said addressing mental health issues is also key to tackling crime.
Editor’s note: Brian Nadig, publisher of Nadig Newspapers, is president of the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce, one of the event’s sponsors. For more candidate coverage, visit www.nadignewspapers.com