Seven State Rep seats on ballot; four contested
March 1, 2012

By Susan Fong

Seven local Illinois State House of Representative seats will be on the Democratic primary ballot March 20, with contested elections for four of them.

2ND DISTRICT
The 2nd District covers Pilsen, Bridgeport, Chinatown, Little Village, Back of the Yards, and McKinley Park.

Edward Acevedo.
Eight-term incumbent Edward “Eddie” Acevedo said if re-elected he will “continue to ensure that the 2nd District will receive its fair share of State funding.”

With a background as a Chicago Police officer, he supports public safety and crime reduction: he backed the Safe Neighbor Act to prevent crime and the Arnold Morales Bill to prevent children’s access to guns. About the State’s budget mess, Acevedo said Illinois must “make sure we’re not spending more than we’re bringing in” by implementing “zero-based budgeting so that we can review each line item…such as…the State’s vehicle fleet. Though these items alone won’t solve the State’s financial issues, they’re an example of the types of strides we could make if we put our minds to it.”

Acevedo also suggested eliminating loopholes so corporations pay their fair share of taxes. To create more jobs, he believes it is “critical to make economic incentives available for businesses” via tax cuts and more lending to small businesses. He also favors infrastructure investments, improving elementary and secondary schools, continuing support for “the excellent public university system.”

Acevedo successfully sponsored the Kid Care Health Program to provide low-cost insurance for children, the Senior Citizen’s Pharmaceutical Assistance Act, and the State Hispanic Employment Plan to employ more minority workers in 2nd District communities. He wants to extend that employment plan to Asian-Americans.

Cuahutemoc “Temoc” Morfin

Challenger Cuahutemoc “Temoc” Morfin is vice president of Morfin Construction and has served as a Spanish translator and juvenile probation officer for the Cook County Circuit Court.

Concerning the budget, Morfin stated, “Legislators should tighten their belts while prioritizing eliminating wasteful spending and reallocating resources to the issues that matter the most to communities, such as education and health.” He wants to “prevent outsourcing public services to private entities that end up being more costly and do not guarantee quality services.”

He also believes “legislators should be more hands-on in their districts” and said he would be a visible and accountable State Representative if elected. He also would advocate for green jobs along the Cermak Road and Back of the Yards corridors, “an area that has been neglected,” he said. Morfin strongly advocates tax incentives for companies and manufacturers in exchange for job creation, to promote American made products, and for companies that do not outsource jobs. He also wants to get local businesses involved in community issues and see them offer student internships.

About State pension woes, Morfin said, “It is important not to amend State workers’ pension rights that have been approved in the past, as it would cause detrimental budgetary problems to elderly and retired workers as the cost of living has gone up. I believe we should carefully agree to set future pension agreements conservatively, to avoid overspending and landing in a deeper State budget deficit.”

Joe Trutin.
Joe Trutin has volunteered actively in area programs such as community policing, court advocacy, and efforts to prevent domestic violence and gangs. If elected, the small business owner plans to continue with these groups “and to have the same accessibility with everyone as I do now,” he said. “A true public servant should be the advocate and leader his or her community needs.”

If elected, he would create local volunteer committees to help him serve the district. For the budget crisis, Trutin wants a “forensic, line-by-line budget analysis to see what needs to be cut or reallocated,” he said. “The pensions system needs an overhaul and revision but requires the input of the unions involved. The first need of the State is to stop borrowing and to pay into the pension.”

He believes Illinois’s politicians have been “too short-sighted and never made Illinois a leader in job creation. We need to figure out our priorities on what dollars can be spent to achieve the highest stable job creation, which can also lead to new revenue development through such means as green technologies and investing in public transportation. Dollars invested in public transportation flow through all sectors of the economy and a cross section of American communities, large and small, urban and rural.

“Many times we have spent money on keeping jobs that are slowly becoming obsolete,” Trutin said. “The question of improving the economy and job creation go hand in hand and require looking for new solutions.”

4TH DISTRICT

Cynthia Soto.
The 4th District covers Ukranian Village, West Town, River North, and the Grand Avenue area. Running for her seventh term, State Representative Cynthia Soto said she originally ran for office to give neighborhood residents a safe and welcoming place to get their questions answered. Among her accomplishments are a moratorium on school closings in her district and creating an educational task force, which works with independent experts on Chicago’s education system to apply best practices for school facility issues and costs. Soto encourages parents, students, teachers, and other community members to attend task force meetings to provide insight into Chicago Public Schools decisions.

Soto also secured $12 million for an Erie House school and helped form a partnership with Wright Community College for job training and placement. “Education is the key, not only to a stronger economy but to provide a stable foundation for the future,” she said.

5TH DISTRICT
The 5th District covers Bronzeville, the South Loop, Old Town, River North, and parts of Woodlawn, Park Manor, Grand Crossing, Chatham, and downtown Chicago.

Kenneth Dunkin.
Since 2002, Kenneth “Ken” Dunkin has been the district’s State Representative.

As chair of the House Appropriations Committee, he said Illinois must “get the economy back on track,” which will be the “single biggest catalyst” to balance the State budget. A stronger economy with more jobs would mean “more taxpayers and fewer recipients of public assistance, and that will go a long way towards fixing our budget problems,” Dunkin said.

About State pensions, Dunkin has no problem giving new State employees options such as a 401(k) defined contribution plan but thinks it is “constitutionally problematic” to rewrite current State employees’ contracts. “It is better to go back to the bargaining table,” Dunkin said. “Why not skip the fighting and instead focus on the bargaining?”

Dunkin has boosted Illinois’s economy by strengthening tourism and the film industry. He said he will continue to advocate for entertainment industry tax credits to help create jobs. A strong advocate of community colleges, Dunkin wants to use them for worker retraining programs.

Dori Collins.
Dori Collins’s background as a long-distance runner gave her “the confidence and commitment to push through seemingly insurmountable barriers to the finish line,” she said. She inherited her passion for running from her father, Robert “Coach” Collins. She majored in speech pathology, which helped her understand multi-disciplinary learning approaches.

Stints with the Chicago Public Schools and an educational consulting firm heightened her sensitivity to parents with specialneeds children, she said; so when her son was diagnosed with a social/emotional disorder, she became actively involved in his treatment and did not allow “experts” to rely on “cookie-cutter solutions,” she noted.

Now 17, her son will attend Tennessee State. Collins later worked in pharmaceutical sales before losing her job to downsizing in 2009. She then founded Pink Slip Management to mentor parents on their rights and responsibilities and appropriate programs for their children.

The Bronzeville resident continues volunteering in education. If elected she would focus on child advocacy, education, health care, job creation, and entrepreneurship. “As public servants, my family encouraged taking ownership of our learning and talents and being active in the shaping of our destinies,” she said. “They listened to people as individuals and fought for what was needed to move forward. I saw the results in academic excellence and championship teams. That’s my model for how an effective elected official should operate.”

6TH DISTRICT
The 6th District covers Englewood, West Englewood, New City, Canaryville, Bridgeport, Chicago Lawn, and Fuller Park.

Esther Golar.
State Representative Esther Golar’s top issues are housing, education, healthcare, jobs, and public safety. “To address and resolve the first three issues would lead to a natural improvement in public safety, and not the other way around,” she said. Golar wants to revise the education system, “which is not presently preparing teachers to work with the students.” She wants to improve classroom instruction while attracting more public school teachers.

She supported legislation that increased the minimum wage and worked with schools to allow students with breathing difficulties to bring and use their inhalers in the classrooms. “Although it sounds negligible, it was important,” she said.

State tax increases have helped the budget, she said, but “it is important to look for increased revenue streams into the area as well as revising the pension system.”

Golar said she does not oppose raising taxes again to help address the debt. Also, “If small businesses are to be one of the solutions” to the budget crisis, she said, “then we have to look for opportunities to create an environment that will support them.”

9TH DISTRICT

Arthur Turner II.
Incumbent Arthur Turner II, an attorney, said, “Law school definitely prepared me for what I am experiencing today.” Consumer protection, education, small business development, foreclosures, and bank loans are among Turner’s top issues. He supports hiking the income tax to close the State’s budget deficit but does not believe a service tax would be effective. Turner also would consolidate agencies and make administrative cuts to help balance the budget.

Regarding pensions, Turner opposes benefit reductions for new employees “but might look for greater contributions from current employees.”

He favors campaign contribution limits and said he is constantly “looking for new ways to improve the communities in which I serve.” He promotes “an open door policy” and is “willing to speak with anyone from the 9th District in order to create positive change.”

He feels proud he was a part of the process of creating the King homes on 16th Street, which honor Martin Luther King.

10TH DISTRICT
The 10th District is located on the Near West and West Sides.

Arthur Turner II.
Incumbent Derrick Smith was appointed to the post when Annazette Collins moved up to the State Senate. He serves on the Human Services, Cities & Villages, State Government Administration, Appropriations-Public Safety, and Housing Committees.

Previously, Smith worked for the City’s Department of Streets and Sanitation as a superintendent for the 27th Ward. He also worked for the Cook County Forest Preserve District, the Office of the Medical Examiner, the Highway Department, and the Secretary of State as deputy director of accounting revenue.

His top priorities are economic development and education. The latter is particularly important to prepare youth for gainful employment and the future, Smith said. He objects strongly to the current system, which only “warehouses youth” instead of rehabilitating and educating youthful offenders.

Illinois needs to grow, he said, “by increasing the revenue by attracting and retaining companies and small businesses that operate in Cook County and thereby helping to increase employment opportunities for its residents.” He supports tax incentives for businesses that hire more employees and would direct funds to social service organizations that prepare individuals for jobs.

“Legislative leaders need to meet with the business community and pragmatically discuss longterm solutions,” Smith said. “The leaders need to identify what retards job growth in Illinois and get it fixed.”

Candidate Tom Swiss is a former Cook County Republican Party executive director now running as a Democrat. His guiding principles are economic development, education reform, and public safety. “We need to try to resolve the State fiscal crisis without cutting necessary services that keep our families going in difficult economic circumstances,” he said.

According to Swiss, “whatever we are doing now is not working because Illinois is one of five states that has lost population.” He supports discussions with people interested in doing business in Illinois to discover their true concerns and favors looking at the Illinois corporate tax rate, which he said makes Illinois uncompetitive compared to surrounding states.

On education, he sees a need to “discuss with the education community about how we can make the schools more responsive to the challenges families face today,” he said. “If this calls for more funding, then let’s find it.”

Yet spending per se “does not necessarily correlate to academic outcome,” he said, because education is a “systemic problem” and not necessarily a resource problem.

26TH WARD
The 26th District runs along the lakefront, from the Gold Coast through the South Loop to Bronzeville and continues south through portions of Kenwood, Washington Park, Woodlawn, and the South Shore and South Chicago neighborhoods.

Kenny Johnson.
South Loop resident Kenny Johnson, founder of the Richmond Group Inc. marketing company and current vice president of Merge Consumer Marketing, also founded the Little Gym, formerly located in this area. He serves on the Jobs for Youth board and belongs to Rainbow/PUSH.

“I want to be a voice for people across my district,” said Johnson. “The make-up of people who live in the 26th District is so diverse, including young, newly transplanted professionals, to residents who have lived in the district for generations, as well as two-income families and those who can’t find work.” He wants to “reinvigorate our democracy” so people will want to take more of a role in their communities and future. He wants to save and create jobs by promoting small and midsized businesses, strengthen schools by keeping them open with adequate resources, protect neighborhoods by strengthening laws against crime, advocate for seniors through laws assuring their care and assistance, and fight corruption in politics.

“I believe we can do better,” Johnson said. “The 26th district is a great place to live, to raise a family and enjoy life. That’s why I am running, to ensure that these things are preserved.”

Johnson previously worked for U.S. Rep Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd) and is endorsed by Congressman Danny Davis, State Representatives LaShawn Ford and Thaddeus Jones, Alderman Robert Fioretti, and the Chicago Teachers’ Union.

Christian Mitchell grew up in Maywood, raised by his mother, a nurse, and grandfather, a steelworker and church elder. At the University of Chicago, he earned a bachelor’s degree in public policy studies and began his career as a faith based community organizer in the south suburbs and South Side of Chicago.

Christian Mitchell.
As an organizer, Mitchell worked with people in their communities to get living wage jobs, adequate housing, improved transportation, and equitable schools. In 2009, in consultation with community leaders and members of the Illinois General Assembly, Mitchell drafted legislation that would become the Urban Weatherization Initiative. This $425 million State jobs program focuses on insulating, weatherproofing, and upgrading single family housing in Illinois’s low and moderate income urban areas, with a requirement to hire workers from those communities.

The legislature passed a law to create a universal fare card for transit systems in Chicago and the South Suburbs, drafted in part by Mitchell, that will allow transfers between Metra, CTA, and Pace by 2015, improving options for those traveling a long distance to work. His work in the south suburbs helped residents secure State and Federal funding to replace the Riverdale, IL sewer system.

Mitchell was a deputy field director for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s re-election campaign in 2010 and campaign manager for Will Burns’s successful campaign for 4th Ward Alderman in 2011. He recently served on Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s senior staff.

“We’re still suffering from the effects of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, but there’s reason to be encouraged, especially in our community,” Mitchell said. “Ours is a district with great assets and tremendous people, but we have more to do to recover from this recession and move our State forward.

We need a representative who will fight to create jobs and a better climate for small businesses, to improve our schools, to keep our streets safe, and do so in a way that’s fiscally responsible.”

Mitchell is endorsed by Secretary of State and 27th Ward Committeeman Jesse White, Aldermen Will Burns and Pat Dowell, the Chicago Chamber of Commerce, and the Service Employees International Union.