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Final installment of Tribune mentions for Illinois House races

This is the final installment of endorsements from the Tribune editorial board for the Illinois House races in the Nov. 8 general election.

The norm among Springfield Democrats is to toe the party line. Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego is one of the outliers. She spoke out against the Democratic Party led by Michael Madigan during years of budget stalemate, and she voted against her party when Madigan presented lopsided spending plans. As the former Speaker of the House now awaits trial on corruption charges, Kifowit says the General Assembly must accelerate ethics reform with expanded protections for whistleblowers and stronger authority for the office of the President. Legislative Inspector General.

His GOP opponent, Joe West, is the Oswego Township Supervisor. He rightly says Illinois should shore up layers of redundant government and look into pension reform that puts new workers into 401(k)-style retirement plans. Kifowit, however, is the best choice and gets our approval.

This Will County district includes parts of Bolingbrook, Romeoville and Lockport. Republican Chris Metcalfe of Bolingbrook says property tax relief begins with Springfield ending the practice of imposing unfunded mandates on local governments. Illinois should also invest more in education funding, he says, which accounts for a large portion of property tax bills. And township governments that duplicate what the local municipality is doing should be eliminated. He is endorsed by Dagmara “Dee” Avelar, the incumbent Democrat, who is also from Bolingbrook.

Democratic incumbent Lawrence Walsh Jr. takes on GOP nominee Scott Greene in this mostly Will County district. Both candidates are from Elwood. No approval.

Small-business owner Scott Preston of Normal is a moderate Republican who has made pension reform his top priority. “It’s vital to the fiscal future of our state,” he told us. He was part of the regular city council when the community landed electric vehicle maker Rivian Automotive, a winning development that created more than 6,000 jobs. His knowledge of economic development strategies is a plus. His Democratic opponent, Sharon Chung, is a professional violinist and a member of McLean County Council. Preston is approved.

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

Republican Lisa Smith of Blue Mound takes on Democratic incumbent Sue Scherer of Decatur. No approval.

When Republican Michelle Smith served on the Plainfield District 202 school board, she had to accept budget cuts that caught the attention of the community. “Despite the setback we knew we were going to experience, we did what we had to do,” Smith, who is now Plainfield Township Clerk, told us. It’s a necessary mindset in Springfield. She also thinks it’s time for a change of direction at DCFS, where there has been a shortage of appropriate shelters for children in the agency’s care. Democrat Harry Benton is an administrator for the Village of Plainfield. Smith is approved.

Homeowners in this Will County district, which includes Bolingbrook, Crest Hill and Joliet, told Donna Russell that exorbitant property taxes were forcing them out of Illinois. Russell, a 74-year-old Republican from Bolingbrook, says that should be motivation enough for Illinois to enact a property assessment freeze. She is leading a grassroots campaign against Democratic incumbent Natalie Manley of Joliet, whom we have previously taken to task for voting for higher taxes and unbalanced budgets. Russell is approved.

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

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

As Madigan awaits trial in his corruption case, his state pension has soared to $149,000 a year. That’s more than $12,400 a month, and it’s the kind of baffling situation that GOP incumbent Amy Elik of downstate Alton wants to stop. She introduced legislation that would suspend pension benefits for lawmakers accused of crimes related to their service pending the outcome of their trials. It is smart and ethical legislation. Elik has been a public accountant for more than two decades, and that expertise serves her well as she faces the challenges posed by Springfield’s moribund financial situation. We enthusiastically endorse him over East Alton Democrat Joe Silkwood.

Incumbent Democrat Katie Stuart takes on Republican Jennifer Korte, a stay-at-home mom. Both candidates are from downstate Edwardsville. No approval.

Republican Ashley Hunsaker of Belleville is a small business owner who supports the elimination of Illinois’ gun owner ID card. Given the prevalence of gun violence in this state, that would be a step in the wrong direction. Swansea Democratic incumbent Jay Hoffman opted out of our approval process. We don’t do any endorsements in this race.

According to the Florida Department of Education, Florida has 75 public school districts and a 2020 population of 21 million. What about Illinois? This state has 859 school districts and a population of 12.5 million. Those statistics are crying out for some measure of consolidation, says Republican Kevin Schmidt, a chiropractor in downstate Millstadt. There are many administrative duplications that can be eliminated through such consolidation, which would help reduce property taxes. Schmidt, who is running against Democratic incumbent LaToya Greenwood of East St. Louis, gets our endorsement.

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

Jacobs is approved.

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