Biela, D’Amico face-off in 15th House District
by KEVIN GROSS
Republican candidate and Edgebrook resident Amanda Biela said that voters are fatigued and ready for change as she faces incumbent Democrat John D’Amico in the Illinois 15th House District in the Nov. 6 election.
"People are tired of D’Amico. People are tired of dynasties and machine politics," Biela said. "He’s a 14-year incumbent and friends with (House Speaker Mike) Madigan."
Biela said that she sees a spending problem in Illinois rather than a revenue problem.
"I’m in favor of rescinding the 32 percent increase in income tax that he (D’Amico) voted for," she said. "We have some of the largest property taxes in the nation, and people are leaving to Iowa, to Tennessee, Indiana … There’s a brain drain in this state. Half of our high school seniors are leaving the state for their college."
Biela also said municipal, township, county and state governments need to be consolidated. "I’d like to make it easier to dissolve townships, as they’re very costly. Only three states have all these levels of local government," she said.
Biela said when it comes to pensions "promises made to current employees need to be kept" and that she would explore a self-managed 401K-type of retirement programs for new hires. She would seek to get rid of state legislators’ pensions, and believes that pension cost of living adjustments (COLA) should not be set to fixed annual 3 percent increases and should instead be tied to the Consumer Price Index.
D’Amico, who is also a Chicago Water Department district foreman and whose aunt is Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th), said that his record as a legislator speaks for itself.
"The graduated driver’s license is one of my greatest accomplishments," D’Amico said of the bill, which increased training requirements, restrictions and the learner’s permit phase for new drivers younger than age 21. "Not only was it a great bill, it was one of the strictest in the nation and since it got passed fatalities dropped 50 percent among teen drivers … That model went nationwide. A lot of states copied what we did here."
D’Amico said he would be open to certain sources of new revenue, including the possibility of a Chicago casino or legalized sports betting if the funds could be earmarked to help fill holes in state pension funds. He also said that a lot of state debt problems are related to Governor Bruce Rauner’s "failure to negotiate" with Democrats to pass budgets or pay pension obligations on time.
"I think that if JB (Pritzker) were to win, it’s going to bring a breath of fresh air to Springfield knowing we have someone willing to work with us and someone willing to work both sides of the aisle," D’Amico said.
D’Amico would not say whether he supports a graduated state income tax, an idea that Biela rejected but many other Democrats have latched onto in recent years.
"Bottom line is, you’re going to take a look at things, but you have got to get the language before committing and see what’s at stake," D’Amico said.
Biela said that she is the better candidate to tackle Illinois’ economic struggles because she thinks D’Amico does not focus on fiscal issues.
"He’ll go on and on about bills he sponsored about texting and driving. I agree it’s bad, but he’s not focused on the economy," she said.
D’Amico said that Biela is misleading about her positions, and he pointed out that she is pro-life and leans conservatively on certain social issues.
"I’m a Democrat and I always say I’m proud to be a Democrat, standing up for the middle class, unions and women’s rights," D’Amico said. "My opponent does not include that she’s a Republican on any of her literature, it seems very misleading."
Biela said that she believes voters are intelligent enough to know she is not a Democrat, as it is not a primary election. "We didn’t put that ‘I’m a Republican’ on many of my mailers. Realistically I’m running in a pretty Democratic area, so we’ve got to sell people on our message," she said. "Our country is too sold on party politics, but it’s about what our platform is."
"I do break from my party in many ways," Biela continued. "Regarding schools I think parents should have some system of choice, but I’m not in favor of (private school) vouchers at all."
Biela, a former Chicago Public Schools teacher and wife of a school principal, said that she is an avid public schools supporter and has seen firsthand the successes that they can bring, but she favors consolidation of schools and some school districts.
Regarding CPS Biela said, "I think they’re doing many great things, but we have many buildings we need to shut down. Its not a good experience to go to a high school of 300 kids."
State Board of Elections quarterly reports show that Biela’s campaign spent about $9,700 and raised about $6,100 between July and September, leaving it with less than $1,000 on hand at the end of September. The report period did not include a recent spike of nearly $35,000 in contributions from the House Republican Organization between Sept. 30 and Oct. 23.
D’Amico’s campaign had about $278,800 on hand as of Sept. 30 and has received an additional $12,500 in contributions from the Democratic Party since September.
"I take every opponent as serious as (the) last. You don’t take anyone lightly," he said, explaining that campaign efforts have focused on mailers and door-to-door knocking to ensure that residents want to "put up signs on their lawn, rather than me putting them on a highway off-ramp or public Forest Preserve property."
Biela said she is also running a campaign with mailers and a focus on meeting constituents.
"Going door-to-door, that’s the key for local races. Local representatives have like 70,000 voters," she said. "It’s possible to talk to every voter in the district, and that’s how you make connections, one-on-one. You don’t do that with mail and TV ads."