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More choices for the Illinois House primary: Swanson, Brooks, Arellano, Welter, Willis, Slone, Boxenbaum, Ruiz

Chicago Tribune

Wednesday, June 22, 2022  |  Editorial  |  EDITORIAL BOARD

This is the Tribune Editorial Board’s third installment of endorsements for contested Illinois House races in the June 28 primary.

71st DistrictDan Swanson of downstate Alpha has been a Republican state lawmaker in western Illinois since 2016. He’s a farmer and a retired Army lieutenant colonel who has built a reputation in Springfield as a fiscally responsible steward of taxpayer money. “Pension reform is vital to ensuring our state’s future fiscal health,” he told us. He also backs strengthening the legislative inspector general’s office by giving it authority to issue subpoenas without approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission. He supports setting up a two-year waiting period before former lawmakers can return to the capital as lobbyists. And, he wants to ban politicians’ use of campaign funds for legal defense or in civil cases involving allegations of corruption, sexual harassment or discrimination. His opponent, Matthew Rauschert, is a 22-year-old industrial designer from Avon whose call to eliminate Illinois’ firearm owners identification card worries us. We endorsed Swanson in 2016 and in 2020, and we endorse him again.

72nd District

This is an open seat now that Democratic incumbent Michael Halpin has decided to run for the Illinois Senate. The district includes the western Illinois cities of Moline, East Moline and Rock Island. Thurgood Brooks is a 28-year-old high school football coach from Rock Island who is open to the idea of a pension reform referendum as a major steppingstone toward solving the state’s pension crisis. He has strong community ties, and helped establish a police community relations commission in Rock Island to help build trust between police and residents. Also in the race are Gregg Johnson, a retired state worker and labor organizer from East Moline, and Jeff Deppe, a Habitat for Humanity volunteer and member of the Rock Island County Board. Brooks is endorsed.

74th District

The anchor to this district is the town of Dixon, home to what is widely believed to be the biggest case of municipal fraud in U.S. history. Rita Crundwell was the town’s comptroller and treasurer when she embezzled $53.7 million in taxpayer funds over two decades. She was released from prison last August after serving less than half of a nine-year, seven month sentence. The town’s mayor today is Liandro Arellano Jr., a Republican who told us he knows “first-hand how poor government structure emboldens corrupt officials.” Arellano wants to see the state fortify its ethics laws, including giving the General Assembly’s legislative inspector general broader authority to investigate without any political interference, and reining in the influence of lobbyists in Springfield. His opponent, Bradley Fritts, is a 22-year-old Dixon farmer and substitute teacher who says he will audit every state-run agency in the district to find out where wasteful spending can be trimmed. Arellano gets our endorsement in the primary race for a seat that became open following GOP incumbent Tom Demmer’s decision to run for state treasurer.

75th District

Republican incumbent David Allen Welter of Morris introduced and stewarded the passage of “Colton’s Law,” which sets in motion a comprehensive review of the state’s domestic violence laws to better serve and protect victims of domestic violence. (The law is named after Colton Miller of Joliet, who was killed by his father in 2019 when Colton was 18 months old). That’s smart, compassionate lawmaking that helps make a difference. Welter also bucked fellow Republicans and supported marijuana legalization legislation, taking the pragmatic view that prohibition no longer made sense, and the additional revenue helps state coffers. His opponent, Jed Davis of Newark, is a staunch gun rights advocate who wants to get rid of the firearm owners identification card, and eliminate the state’s red flag law that aims to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who show signs of erratic or threatening behavior. Welter is endorsed.

77th District

Why does Illinois have a red flag law? Kathleen Willis, that’s why. The Democratic incumbent from west suburban Addison was instrumental in the law’s passage — legislation that over the years we have strongly supported. Recent mass shootings, including the tragedy at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, showcase the need for the law. Willis, 60, has been a strong proponent of gun safety since arriving at the General Assembly in 2013. Her opponent is Norma Hernandez, a 31-year-old Triton Community College trustee from Melrose Park who brings to the race strong credentials as an urban planner at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Great Cities Institute. But Willis, who we have backed in the past, gets our endorsement again.

79th District

The winner of this Democratic primary faces Republican incumbent Jackie Haas. The district includes parts of far south suburban Cook, Will and Kankakee counties. Erin Slone, 42, is a Park Forest trustee and a business consultant who envisions Illinois as a future innovation hub. She says much of that innovation can come via the state’s gradual transition to green energy. “Illinois should renew its investment in workforce development and vocational training to prepare our residents for the competitive green jobs of the future,” she told us. Her opponent, Robert Ellington-Snipes, is a longtime member of the Kankakee County Board. Slone is endorsed.

83rd District

Democrat Arad Boxenbaum is only 21, but early in his political career he’s building up a strong resume. He’s been advocating for gun violence prevention from the age of 15, and has worked in congressman Mike Quigley’s office and as a youth representative on U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood’s education advisory committee. And he’s also a Geneva library board trustee. We like the energy Boxenbaum shows on the subject of ethics reform, saying at a recent League of Women Voters forum that “we can’t have another Mike Madigan, and the way to do this is term limits.” Matt Hanson of Aurora, a former member of the Kane County Board, is also running in the Democratic primary for this district, which has been redrawn and includes parts of Geneva, Batavia, Aurora and Oswego. We endorse Boxenbaum.

86th District

The winner of this Republican primary faces Democratic incumbent Lawrence Walsh Jr. of Elwood. Dinora Ruiz, 27, is a seamstress from Joliet who correctly states that Illinois can provide property tax relief by scrutinizing where consolidation of school districts would be warranted. She says Illinois school districts’ spending on administrative costs ranks second highest in the nation. Illinois also ranks fifth in the most number of school districts in the country, and nearly a fourth of those districts serve only one school, she says. Her opponent, Scott Greene, a 39-year-old truck driver from Elwood, sounds like a “Stop the Steal” candidate. “Every candidate that rode the coattails of Trump won, but he didn’t. Isn’t that odd?” he told us. News flash, Mr. Greene. Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election fair and square. Also running is James Lanham of Joliet, who doesn’t appear to be waging much of a campaign. Ruiz is endorsed.