Voters to decide on fresh faces in some local Illinois General Assembly races
March 8, 2018

By Madeline Makoul

The races are on in Illinois State Representatives contests, and both returning and new candidates are ready to address Chicagoans’ concerns.

With some open seats, fresh faces are advocating new sources of revenue and addressing some hot topics—from education, to gun control, to mounting property taxes, to the opiate crisis. While the incumbent candidates are running unopposed, they too are looking for new ways to improve the quality of life for residents in their districts and across the state.

Theresa Mah.

2nd District (D)

Theresa Mah, who became a State Representative for the 2nd District in January 2017, plans to continue advocating for a progressive tax system. This system will help build revenue to benefit education and assist those facing rising property taxes.

Mah added she will continue to advocate for the large number of immigrants and seniors in her district whose voices aren’t being heard. Specifically, she recognizes the important role immigrants play, stating she is dedicated to “acknowledging the debt we owe to immigrants for the thriving community we have.”

She is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. See www.theresamah.com/.

4th District (D)

Cynthia Soto had represented the 4th District since 2001 but declined to run again, leaving the seat open. Four candidates are running in the Democratic primary.

 

Iris Millan.

Iris Millan, who works as the Community Affairs Liaison at Chicago City Colleges, immigrated from Mexico to the United States when she was eight years old and said it is a privilege to exercise her citizenship by running for State Representative in the 4th District. In a political climate that puts immigration at the forefront, Millan said, “I will roll up my sleeves and defend our rights.”

Millan was inspired to run based on her anger with the “irresponsibility in government” and said she will focus on increasing revenue by advocating for a progressive income tax, taxing luxury services, and legalizing marijuana. She said legalizing marijuana alone would generate $900 million and hopes to allocate these new funds toward education as well as relief for the public pension crisis and those affected by rising property taxes.

When it comes to property taxes, Millan said she has to address the “elephant in the room” about a leadership issue within Cook County, where the entire 4th District is located. Specifically mentioning Joe Berrios, the Cook County Assessor, Millan said the district needs leadership with “responsible ideologies” about property taxes.

Millan said, “We see our working families, low income families, being slammed with property taxes while the rich and wealthy are benefiting,” an issue she attributes to area leadership. If leadership doesn’t change and Berrios and others like him win reelection, she will continue to focus on revenue sources not being used to address property taxes.

Learn more through her website: https://irisforstaterep.com/

Alyx Pattison.

Alyx Pattison is a small business owner and attorney who has advocated for the rights of women, immigrants, the LGBT community, and children.

Pattison hopes to increase school funding. She believes legalizing marijuana offers the best way to increase money for the State, and that income can go toward education. Pattison said other revenue sources for education can come from a millionaire’s tax amendment (raising taxes on millionaires), closing the carried interest loopholes, casino expansion, and a progressive
income tax amendment, to name a few.

With education in mind, Pattison said she cannot support a property tax freeze to alleviate rising property taxes. According to Pattison, a two-year freeze would “devastate” education. Instead, Pattison said lawmakers must “change the revenue structure in Illinois” in order to help those slammed by property taxes. Pattison also is open to the idea of protecting city residents “from huge and unpredictable property tax increases due to rapid gentrification.”

Pattison hopes to address the public pension crisis by re-amortizing the pension debt, believing this will make debt payments “manageable and predictable” and moving Illinois toward fiscal stability. Pattison does not believe an amendment to the Illinois constitution would help the pension crisis and said in general she opposes “efforts to amend the constitution.” Ultimately, Pattison said the pension crisis reveals that, without a constitutional obligation for a pension protection clause, the State would not pay.

In addition, Pattison said Illinois must pass an infrastructure bill, which would “kill multiple birds with one stone by beginning to repair Illinois’s crumbling infrastructure, spurring economic development, and creating good-paying jobs.”

Learn more about Pattison’s campaign on her website at http://www.alyxpattison.org/.

Delia Ramirez.

Delia Ramirez, a lifelong resident of the 4th District, has worked for multiple organizations in her community including as deputy director of the Community Renewal Society and president of the Latin United Community Housing Association.

As a daughter of Guatemalan immigrants who lives on the same block where she was reared, Ramirez has seen the effects rising property taxes have on the district. Ramirez said that, as property taxes continue to rise, in part due to the proximity to the updated 606 Trail, her father has asked repeatedly, “is this going to be the last day I can keep this house?” Ramirez wants to help those living paycheck to paycheck to pay for their homes by providing tax relief in particular zones throughout the district. Ramirez said she will seek to freeze or reduce taxes for certain zones for a period of time.

With revenue for education relying on property taxes, however, Ramirez hopes to tap other sources of revenue to alleviate the tax burden while funding important areas such as education and healthcare. This plan includes implementing a progressive income tax, legalizing marijuana, closing corporate tax loopholes, and placing a tax on luxury services. While Ramirez recognizes some may not favor another tax, a tax on luxury services such as massages will help to raise revenue in a way that “those that make more pay more, because right now it’s the opposite,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said increased revenue also can go toward addressing the public pension crisis, although she said it’s “very clear” that the crisis resulted from the State’s irresponsibility in failing to make payments. Ramirez explained this is not a pensions benefit problem but a debt repayment problem. Ramirez hopes to address this issue by changing payments from a gradual payment plan to an annual flat payment. Her website is http://deliaforstaterep.com/

Anne Shaw.

Anne Shaw, a civil rights attorney and small business owner, has a unique plan to increase revenue if elected as 4th District State Representative. Beyond supporting a progressive income tax, Shaw advocates for a capped income tax deduction on sales taxes. Shaw explained this idea would help avoid double taxation; to make up the loss, Shaw supports closing tax loopholes and expanding the sales tax to luxury services.

Shaw’s focus on the sales tax results from her dedication to the many small businesses in the district. Shaw supports a sales tax holiday for small retailers, a plan that would resemble a “small business Saturday” and help promote local shopping. For the many light manufacturing companies in the district requiring job seekers with specialized skills, Shaw hopes to implement an apprentice program between the companies and schools to give people in the area the skills they need to work in these jobs. The plan would give residents access to good wages and benefits, growing the middle class while benefiting local manufacturers, Shaw said.

Shaw added the 4th District has some of the highest shooting rates in Illinois, making enforcement for gun control legislation vital. Specifically, Shaw said crimes are committed using guns brought in from bordering states, something she wants to push the Governor to address by talking to Senators and Representatives in Washington D.C.

Shaw, who participates in the group Parents for Peace and Justice, said on the gun issue, “we need to demand for more justice and demand that people address the realities of violence in our community.” Learn more about her campaign at www.neighborsforanneshaw.com/

Felicia Bullock.

5th District (D)

Four candidates are running in the 5th District Democratic primary, an open seat because incumbent Julia Stratton is running for Lieutenant Governor instead.

Felicia Bullock is a senior buyer at the University of Chicago and lifelong resident of Chicago’s South Side. As a product of Chicago Public Schools and graduate of Northern Illinois University, Bullock said she is dedicated to quality education for those in the 5th District and across Illinois.

Specifically, Bullock wants more transparency in fund allocation for Chicago Public Schools. Significant property taxes go toward education, and Bullock said residents need to know exactly how officials use their money. Transparency also would support analysis to discover what areas are lacking.

Bullock’s concerns include public safety, and she supports new gun control legislation. “Clearly, what we are doing isn’t working because we have so much gun violence,” Bullock said. To increase safety and control violence, Bullock supports banning assault rifles. Above all else, Bullock said, “I want the people in my district and communities to feel safe,” a feeling improved legislation can foster, she added.

Ken Dunkin.

Another plank in Bullock’s platform is healthcare, which she asserts continues to suffer cuts that affect everyone, particularly seniors in her district. The Community Care Program, an initiative that provides home care for seniors, is among programs that suffered recent cuts. She hopes to increase funding for this and similar programs by growing revenue through incentives for corporations and small businesses to come to Illinois. Businesses “end up becoming the fabric of the community if done the right way,” she said. Visit her website at www.feliciabullock.com/.

Kenneth (Ken) Dunkin is the former 5th District State Rep whom Stratton defeated two years ago after Dunkin, although a Democrat, increasingly supported positions advocated by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.

He represented the district for 14 years. Dunkin has contended he sometimes went against the Democrats in his last term because he was battling Speaker Michael Madigan. He also has said the Democratic Party often overlooks the Black community.

Lamont Robinson Jr.

Dunkin could not be reached for comment.

See https://twitter.com/repkendunkin?lang=en.

Lamont Robinson Jr. is a professor at Harold Washington College and business owner in the 5th District. As an educator whose mother taught in the Chicago Public Schools, Robinson wants to improve education, particularly by ensuring equal funding for neighborhood schools. He said South Side schools receive less funding than those on the North Side, which have better facilities and programs. Robinson hopes to increase revenue for these underfunded schools through a progressive income tax, marijuana legalization, and closing tax loopholes for the rich.

Robinson also would use that additional revenue to curb the opiate crisis by funding school programs about drugs and their effects and promoting mental health facilities to help those in need.

As for gun control, he wants to keep the district—and the State—safe with a universal background check and strengthening gun laws at the State’s borders.

Dilara Sayeed.

Robinson said Illinois also needs a ban not just on assault rifles but silencers. He believes the City needs State legislators to stand up against the National Rifle Association, stating, “We need to fight them tooth and nail to understand that our community cannot continue to lose its bright future through gun violence.” Learn more about Robinson’s campaign at www.votelamontrobinson.com/

Dilara Sayeed is a former eighth grade teacher and founder of Y-Peer, an online mentoring site for both young and seasoned professionals to access mentoring.

As a former educator, Sayeed expressed concern over lack of education funding and advocates changing the funding formula to avoid relying on property taxes. She said Illinois should provide more of the funding because “education is supposed to be a partnership between the State and the municipality, but it’s a poor partnership that will be fixed when the State takes on the responsibility that it should.” This funding could come in part from legalizing marijuana, which not only will ease the property tax burden but help improve education across the state.

Sonya M. Harper.

Sayeed recommends many other routes to raise state revenue. Besides a progressive income tax, she is pushing to give some tax increment financing money to “inequitable areas” and considering a LaSalle Street financial transactions tax to place a $1 to $2 charge on transactions.

Sayeed also supports “common sense” gun control legislation, including an assault rifle ban. As for the NRA, she stressed the importance of electing people like her, and so many new people running for office brings a chance to make a big impact. “Making sure we have new faces and fresh voices will be the key in ensuring that we aren’t under the influence of organizations like the NRA,” Sayeed said. “I can stand up to them.”

Visit Sayeed’s website at http://votedilara.com/

6th District (D)

Sonya M. Harper is the incumbent 6th District State Rep and is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. In the legislature, Harper is a member of the committees on Economic Development & Housing, Elementary & Secondary Education: School Curriculum & Policies, Environment, Renewable Energy & Sustainability, and Restorative Justice.

Arthur Turner.

Harper advocates for food access and education and co-founded the Wood Street Meet & Greet Community Garden, an organization that promotes sustainable living.

Harper could not be reached for comment. See http://www.repsonyaharper.com/about_sonya_harper.htm.

9th District (D)

Arthur Turner is the incumbent 9th District State Rep and is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. In the legislature, he is the Deputy Majority Leader and a member of multiple committees including the Energy Committee and vice chair of the Revenue & Finance Committee, Growth, Reform & Fairness Subcommittee, and Property Tax Subcommittee. Turner could not be reached for comment. See http://www.ilga.gov/house/rep.asp?MemberID=2423.

Melissa Conyears-Ervin.

10th District (D)

Melissa Conyears-Ervin has held office since January 2017 and is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Though unopposed, Conyears-Ervin continues to advocate for change. As a new mother, Conyears-Ervin is supports work-family balance, especially the State’s need to accommodate families. Conyears-Ervin said, “No parent should have to choose between a successful career and a healthy family. We can strive for both.”

See https://www.conyearservin.com/.

26th District (D)

Christian Mitchell, representative for the 26th District since 2013, said he has been working to create a progressive income tax.

Christian Mitchell.

Mitchell, who is unopposed, hopes a progressive tax will help fund education. He recently introduced a constitutional amendment saying, “education is no longer a fundamental goal of the State, but a fundamental right” and said this change will ensure the State funds education properly.

Mitchell also will continue his focus on gun control legislation, advocating that we “license guns the way we license cars.”

See http://www.ilga.gov/house/rep.asp?MemberID=2423.