Candidates vying for position in 19th Illinois House District
by JASON MEREL
Democratic candidates vying for the 19th Illinois House District post recently discussed their campaigns, as they stay busy canvassing the district for votes in the March 17 primary election.
Incumbent state Representative Lindsey LaPointe is facing Patti Vasquez and Joe Duplechin in the race. Except for Duplechin, who ran for alderman in the 39th Ward last year, Vasquez and LaPointe will be facing voters for the first time.
LaPointe was appointed in July to the House district seat after John Mulroe vacated his 10th Illinois Senate District seat to become a judge. State Representative Robert Martwick was then appointed to Mulroe’s seat and LaPointe was chosen by area committeepersons to fill Martwick’s House district seat.
The game of chairs-style appointment was seen as controversial at the time due to the process, with 41st Ward committeeman Tim Heneghan calling it a "backroom deal" between Martwick and former alderman John Arena, the 45th ward committeeman, who reportedly considered himself for the appointment, but presumably held out for a job with the city, from which he later resigned.
"I believe I was appointed for two reasons," LaPointe said. "I was the most experienced candidate at the time I sought the appointment and had experience in and outside of state government and I have been involved in my community, which is important if you’re going to represent them."
LaPointe is a social worker who has been involved in justice reform work in the state with Adult Redeploy Illinois at the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority as well as Business and Professional People for the Public Interest. She was also the vice president of the 45th Ward Independent Democrats under former Alderman Arena. She is endorsed by several local unions, organizations and politicians and recently received Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s endorsement. Her campaign platform focuses on her experience in social work and working on problems at the state level.
"As a social worker, I had the curtain pulled back on systemic issues," LaPointe said. "I got involved, did volunteer work, saw the opportunity to step up and took it."
Vasquez is a political activist, a media personality and a stand-up comedian, who was also seeking the appointment to fill Marwick’s vacancy in the House. She has been raising funds from private donors and her campaign platform focuses on her advocacy work in Springfield during the state budget impasse that spanned from 2015 to 2017. She runs a company called With Kind Words that aims to teach doctors how to better communicate bad news to families.
"A lot of people discuss problems," Vasquez said. "I prefer to identify solutions. I will work to find common ground with people to have a discussion about how things will benefit their community."
Property taxes and the state’s pension problem are big issues in the district according to both LaPointe and Vasquez. LaPointe added that her campaign is getting a lot of feedback about protecting schools and teachers. Vasquez said she has been hearing a trend of decreased morale among first responders in the district as well as problems with access to affordable healthcare.
LaPointe, Vasquez and Duplechin support the "Fair Tax" amendment that will fall to voters to approve or deny in the November 2020 election. The graduated income tax would tax the upper class at a different rate than the middle and lower class.
LaPointe said that she supports lifting the ban on rent control and Vasquez said that she hasn’t seen an example in which rent control works. She said she would want a comprehensive plan that helps property owners and renters.
LaPointe proposed lifting the ban to allow for a conversation, saying, "We need to broaden our toolbox to create more housing stability."
Joe Duplechin is an army veteran, union carpenter and a Chicago Police Department officer. He has been endorsed by several local labor unions and political action committees.
He said that when he ran for 39th ward alderman in 2018 it taught him a lot about the process, including scheduling and the importance of visiting every voter to discuss their concerns.
"I am running for office because I have always been a person of action. When I see a problem, I don’t say, "too bad, I hope someone fixes that", I myself start finding ways to fix the problem. I see a lot of issues in our district that need to be fixed and I think I am the right person to fix them," Duplechin said.
"Some of the issues that I see in the district are in fact the issues that I find most important. Public safety being chief among them. Our streets and homes need to be safer, the number of carjackings and property crimes has to be addressed. I’m also concerned about our rising property taxes, the middle class homeowners in our district who worked here their whole lives are now being priced out because of property tax increases."
Duplechin said that he would work as a legislator to freeze property tax increases, work on reducing the flow of illegal guns coming to Illinois from out of state and mandate special elections for any seat that becomes open between elections.
"We must end backroom deals that allow politicians to be loyal to other politicians and not the voters," he said.