Candidates Martwick, Jones, LaPointe, Wallace, Kelly, Rabbitt address the community at June 16 ‘Meet & Greet’
by BRIAN NADIG
Democratic primary candidates in the 15th and 19th Illinois House districts and the 10th Illinois Senate District discussed their background, experience and key issues at a June 16 “Meet and Greet” at the Copernicus Center Annex, 5214 W. Lawrence Ave.
About 120 people the event, which was sponsored by the Jefferson Park and Gladstone Park chambers of commerce, Jefferson Park and Gladstone Park neighborhood associations, and Jefferson Park Forward. Candidates were asked to focus on the issues and refrain from personal attacks. On the Republican side of the races, either no candidate is running at this time or the candidate is unchallenged.
State Representative Lindsey LaPointe was first appointed to the 19th House District seat in 2019 and then was elected to a two-year term in 2020. The district includes Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Old Irving Park, Dunning and parts of Gladstone Park.
“I was a social worker turned policy advocate turned state representative, and it’s my experience on the ground as a social worker, primarily with kids with special needs and with seniors on fixed incomes on the Northwest Side who were struggling to stay in their homes, that was my inspiration for going into policy work, first, and then take the plunge into Chicago politics, second,” LaPointe said.
“We have a diversity of political opinions on the Northwest Side, … and that’s okay,” LaPointe added. “What we all have in common up here on the Northwest Side is a commitment to service and a commitment to being engaged in our communities.”
LaPointe said that the past 2 1/2 years have been “really challenging” due to the pandemic and that families must now deal with inflation and higher costs of living, with public safety being the “biggest issue” at this time. She added that the issues call for leaders “who authentically love” their communities and will be “relentless” in addressing the problems.
LaPointe said that the increase in gun violence started in March of 2020 when “everyone’s structure and routines were rocked” due to the pandemic, causing some students not to finish high school. She said that there are too many illegal guns on the street and that it is important to support and fund law enforcement but also to invest in the “frontline” community-based organizations working to reduce violence.
Tina Wallace, who is challenging LaPointe in the Democratic primary for the 19th House District seat, has worked in the real estate industry for 35 years and founded Barriers Against Repeated Cruelty, a networking and funding conduit for animals in need.
“Throughout my career I noticed most of the owners were men, and I didn’t like that so much, so I worked hard, and I’m proud to say I’m a female small business owner. Girls, never give up. You can break the glass ceiling,” Wallace said.
Wallace said that the message which she is receiving from residents on the campaign trail is clear. “They’re not happy, and they don’t feel safe … moms who don’t want their kids playing in the front yard,” and seniors who are too scared to leave their home, and residents who do want to buy gas while their children are in the car, Wallace said.
“People ask me why I’m running. I’m tired of what’s going on in our community. We need common-sense, practical solutions,” Wallace said.
“Through my experiences I’ve learned how to negotiate, listen and stand up for what’s right and not back down and bring people together who are on opposite ends of the spectrum for a meeting of the minds,” Wallace said.
Wallace said that she supports a cap on how much property tax bills can increase each year.
Wallace also criticized House Bill 3653, which calls for law enforcement reforms, as “radical ideology” that will make it tougher for police to remove trespassers, allow “those accused of violent crimes to walk freely” and make it easier for the sentences of those convicted to be reduced, she said.
State Representative Mike Kelly was appointed to the 15th House District seat in 2021, replacing John D’Amico. He is an 18-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department and serves as athletic director at Saint Edward School. The district includes Mayfair, Edgebrook, Sauganash, and the northern section of Gladstone Park.
“My entire life has been about public service, whether at the firehouse or as a community volunteer,” Kelly said.
“Since getting the (House) appointment six months ago, I’ve hit the ground running by meeting with community groups and knocking of the doors of constituents, just to hear what their concerns are,” Kelly said. “I’ve co-sponsored 95 bills, 37 of which have become law.”
Kelly said that the some of the legislation he has supported calls for increasing funding for education, public safety and violence prevention and for further protecting a woman’s right to choose.
“I really love this community, and representing the 15th District,” Kelly said. He added that as a first responder, he has seen the effects of crime and that his experience as a firefighter will help him to better address the issue in Springfield. “When I’m knocking of doors, the first thing I hear about is crime.”
Kelly said that he supports “common-sense” gun safety legislation, including an expansion of background checks, and that Illinois has to work with neighboring states to address the flow of illegal guns. He said that supporting mental health programs can play a significant role in addressing violence and other problems.
Michael Rabbitt, who is challenging Kelly for the 15th House District seat, works at the Argonne National Laboratory where he leads a team that focuses on problem solving.
“I’m the oldest of six children, growing up we were taught the importance of service, faith, compassion, hard work, justice and inclusion, and those values have shaped what I am and what I’ve done in my life as a husband, parent, organizer, coach and a community leader,” Rabbitt said.
Rabbitt said that as a representative he would be committed to “ethical and transparent government” and would advocate for policies that support working families, including more affordable housing. “I worked alongside the community to ensure new development was approved, funded and built, and other developments are in the pipeline,” he said.
“When a hate crime occurred in the Cook County forest preserve, I co-founded a community organization focused on diversity and inclusion, and we hosted ‘peace in the preserve’ events,” Rabbitt said. He added that he also developed a racial and social justice ministry.
“In doing this work, I always challenge myself, what can I do to have a larger impact,” Rabbitt said. “My vision is an Illinois where people thrive.”
Rabbitt added that it is critical to address “the root causes of violence” and the need for good-paying jobs in disadvantaged communities and funding mental health and violence intervention programs. “Public safety is the bedrock of thriving” communities, he said.
State Senator Robert Martwick, an attorney, was elected in 2012 as a state representative for the 19th District, but in 2019:he was appointed to the 10th District Senate seat after John Mulroe left the Senate to become a judge.
“When I ran 10 years ago, I ran because I saw a society, a business world, a government that was not standing up for the middle-class, and I wanted to go down (to Springfield) and make a difference,” Martwick said.
Martwick said that his goals have included helping to bring about bipartisan cooperation, create an elected school board in.Chicago and approving a graduated state income tax that “would give middle-class, working-class people some tax relief” and make the wealthier “pay a little more.”
Martwick said that the Chicagoans will get to start voting on a school board in 2024 and that he will continue to fight for changes in the state income tax. He added that he was able to get bipartisan support in overriding former Republican governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill that makes it easier for family members to collect life insurance benefits.
Martwick said that he supported the state’s new ban on “ghost guns,” which requires serial numbers on guns, but that many of the violent crimes in the state are being committed with the use of guns from other states. He added that the state has funded an expansion of the state crime lab in order to process evidence quicker, funded crime-fighting technology such as license plate readers and provided more resources for mental health programs, including some aimed at helping police officers.
Erin Jones, who is running against Martwick in the Democratic primary for the 10th Senate District seat, became a police officer in 2003. She has worked as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics officer and currently serves as a detective.
“For those who don’t know me, I’m Erin Jones. I’m not a political elitist. I’m not an inside politician. What I am is a mother, wife and Chicago police detective … and I’d be honored if I could go down to Springfield,” Jones said.
Jones said that she was raised in a single-parent household where decisions on whether to pay “the light bill or pay for groceries” had to be made and that she did not have health insurance until she became a police officer, relying on Planned Parenthood during her younger adult years.
Jones said that there has been a 36-percent increase in serious crimes this year in the 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District and that the “reckless” House Bill 3653 that ends cash bail and implements other law enforcement changes will make the city “less safe” and “vulnerable to the criminal element.”
She added that prosecution decisions, including the dropping of thousands of felony cases, made by County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx have contributed to the crime problems in the city.
“This defund the police agenda puts us on a really dangerous path,” Jones said. “We can’t retain veteran officers and recruit new officers.”
Jones said that addressing mental health issues also is a key to fighting crime.
Editor’s note: Nadig Newspapers publisher Brian Nadig is president of the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce, one of the event’s sponsors. For more coverage of the candidates, visit www.nadignewspapers.com