Candidates discuss issues in 15th House District race
by JASON MEREL
Incumbent Mike Kelly and challenger Michael Rabbitt discussed their campaigns for the 15th Illinois House District race ahead of the June 28 Democratic primary election during a June 1 virtual forum sponsored by several local civic organizations.
Republican candidate Mark Albers also participated in the forum.
The Hollywood-North Park Community Association hosted the forum and each of the candidates made introductory statements, answered questions submitted to the group and delivered closing statements.
Kelly said that he is a lifelong Mayfair resident, an 18-year Chicago firefighter and the athletic director at Saint Edward School.
“MY ENTIRE life has been about public service, whether I’m at the fire house or as a community volunteer. And so, when the vacancy appointment came about, I decided to throw my hat in the ring. Myself and several other community members, including one of my opponents (Rabbitt), went through the Democratic appointment process and I am proud to say I was unanimously chosen to fill that vacancy,” Kelly said. “I have forged great relationships with other legislators and worked to pass legislation that increases education funding, protects a woman’s right to choose, works to make healthcare affordable and provides more money for affordable housing.”
RABBITT said that he lives in Edgebrook and works at the Argonne National Laboratory, where he leads a team that focuses on problem-solving.
“For us in the 15th District, it’s not just our home, it is our community, and that’s why I’ve devoted over 20 years to serving our community, co-founding and serving in leadership roles in several community organizations along the way,” Rabbitt said. “In order to address housing shortages on the far Northwest Side, I co-founded a community organization to achieve historic wins for affordable housing.”
He was an early supporter of the mixed-income housing development at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy., which was a source of controversy several years ago before it was built.
“I’ve also been a leader in my church by co-founding a racial and social justice ministry and I serve on the steering committee of the interfaith coalition against racism,” Rabbitt said. “In doing this work, I’ve always challenged myself by asking, ‘What can I do to make an even larger impact?’”
Albers said that he lives in Morton Grove and has served on the parish council and finance committee of the Catholic church he attends.
“I’m a former Morton Grove chamber of commerce president,” Albers said. “I am pro-small business and I own my own small business. I will fully fund the police and believe violent offenders need to be jailed. I’m for your family and believe in school choice because your children are very important to you and me. I will not vote to raise any taxes. I want you to keep what you earn. Illinois has a spending problem. So, I will represent you and your values. So please come out and vote for me and I will be on the November ballot. And one of these other two guys will not.”
Candidates were asked what policies they would bring to Springfield to address gun violence.
“We’ve seen the recent mass shootings in our country and it is extremely troubling,” Rabbitt said. “We need to address this as a public health epidemic and my plan is to make sure that not only do we protect the gun laws that we have in Illinois — and we do have some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, which is great — but there is more that we could do. We have to address the fact that in Illinois you can still purchase assault rifles, such as the ‘AR-15’ style guns, and we have to end that. It is unacceptable.”
Rabbitt said other issues he would address are increased enforcement of revoked or expired gun permits and FOID violations.
KELLY said that loopholes that allow guns to be brought into Illinois should be closed and mental health checks should be required for purchasing weapons.
“You should have to pass some form of test,” he said. “And you should have to wait longer than 10 minutes to get your gun. So, I’m all for common sense gun laws. I’m not against people having a gun to protect themselves. I’m for that.”
Albers said Illinois gun laws are already strict and positioned gun violence as an issue of mental health and called for increased enforcement of existing laws.
“There is a problem with guns falling into the hands of people who are mentally deranged. The gun itself doesn’t do anything. People do things to other people. So, mental health, you know, it’s a crisis here. It needs to be addressed,” Albers said. “This state has some of the strictest laws in the nation, and um, what people do, these gangbangers and such, they’re not abiding by the laws as they’re written, so we need to enforce laws.”
On the issue of abortion, Kelly and Rabbitt said that they are pro-choice, while Albers said that he is pro-life.
A question submitted by a North Park resident asked how candidates would vote on House Bill 1727, the Bad Apples in Law Enforcement Accountability Act, which would modify qualified immunity for law enforcement officers and is currently in committee.
“Creating greater trust between communities and law enforcement is very important to improving arrest clearance rates,” Rabbitt said. “It’s very important to public safety. So that’s why I’m very much for some of the reforms that have been enacted and this particular one, ending immunity, is part of the progress we need to make to improve public safety and improve community trust between communities and law enforcement.”
“That’s an issue that needs to bring all stakeholders to the table,” Kelly said. “We’ve got to get the state police, the sheriffs, the Chicago police, all these different community police officers, they need representation at the table and so does the community.”
Candidates were asked how their professional experience prepared them for the representative position.
“We get a call, we just go, we don’t care where we’re going,” Kelly said of his experience as a firefighter. “We work with people every day, in all walks of life.”
Albers said he is a professional negotiator.
“We need to negotiate to win and both sides need to walk away feeling comfortable that they did the right thing for all people involved,” he said. “Being a Democrat or a Republican and standing on either side of the aisle isn’t really the best way to do business. We need to be on both sides of that aisle, working together for the common good of the people we represent.”
Rabbitt said his career has been “all about problem solving, improving organizations, making organizations work more efficiently and more effectively.”
“That is exactly what we need in state government,” he said. “That’s exactly the type of experience you want to have in a state rep.”