Five candidates vying in 40th House District
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
Voters in the March 18 Democratic primary election will have a choice between two attorneys, an engineer, a former public school teacher or the current appointed state representative as they all seek a post in the 40th Illinois House District.
State Representative Jaime Andrade Jr. (D-40) was appointed to former state representative Deborah Mell’s seat after she stepped down and took over as 33rd Ward alderman for her father, Richard Mell, who retired.
Andrade, a former political aide in Richard Mell’s office, will face union-backed attorney and 35th Ward Democratic Committeeman Nancy Schiavone, Aaron Goldstein, one of the defense attorneys in the federal corruption trial of former governor Rod Blagojevich, engineer Mark Pasieka and former public school teacher Wendy Jo Harmston.
The 40th District extends from Argyle Street on the north to Altgeld Street, between California Avenue and Kostner Avenue, and it is bisected by the Kennedy Expressway. According to the 2010 census, the district is 45 percent white, with most white residents concentrated in the area north of Irving Park Road and in Logan Square, in the southeast corner. It also is 45 percent Hispanic, with most Hispanics concentrated southwest of the Kennedy Expressway between Irving Park Road and Logan Boulevard.
Andrade said that he has been busy knocking on doors in hopes of being elected to his post for the first time. He said that he has been humbled by the experience of being appointed to the seat.
"I would like to thank the voters for letting me into their homes during the historic cold weather that we have had," Andrade said. "I want to bring government to their doorsteps. I don’t worry about my opponents because I’m concerned about what the needs of the constituents are."
Andrade said that he supports increasing the minimum wage in the state because "people need to earn a living wage." "We need to provide people with the resources to pay their rent, and this will not be put in immediately, but gradually by 2016," he said.
Andrade, who voted for the pension reform bill, said that his opponents are using that vote against him. Unions that are backing Schiavone, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, opposed the legislation. 45th Ward Alderman John Arena also has endorsed Schiavone.
"Any pension reform we did had to be feasible, and something had to be done to help the situation, and that’s why I voted for it," Andrade said.
Andrade said that he also voted in favor of same-sex marriage and that his constituents have expressed gratitude for his actions. "They say that I’ve saved them because now they can get on their partner’s insurance," he said.
"We need to strengthen our state economy and allow job creators to want to come here," Andrade said. "We need to go line by line and look at every state agency to justify how it spends money and why."
Goldstein said that people perceive the election as a contest between Andrade and Schiavone because of special interests. "Basically it’s a machine civil war, and she is keeping her connections and Andrade is representing the old machine and I’m in the middle," Goldstein said.
"What I have seen is that for a district that is customarily Democratic, it’s not adhering to its ideas, which is to fight for the people and not be beholden to nepotism," Goldstein said. "We are anti-Democratic and anti-democracy in the 40th District."
Goldstein said that he thinks Andrade is a "good human being" but he does not like the way he was appointed by committeemen. "I just think that when you’re going to represent a 130,000 people, you have to pick the best and the brightest," he said.
Goldstein said that as he goes going door to door, people express anger when they hear about the appointment. "The one thing that keeps popping up, no matter who the people are or where they live, is the procedure of nepotism," he said. "When some people hear about what has happened here in the 40th District it’s instant anger.
"I don’t think that state legislature jobs should be patronage jobs. What is the end game? Well, now they have a puppet that Madigan can control."
Goldstein said that he thinks that the pension reform bill that was passed by the General Assembly is unconstitutional and that he wants to work on a graduated income tax and he opposes private schools.
"I believe it is unconstitutional, and it was more of a political move to get something passed before the election," Goldstein said. "We will be back to square one when the courts look at it. I think that the next representative will have to look at the pension bill again and we will have to do something that is fair."
Goldstein also said that as a criminal defense attorney he would like to work on reforming the criminal justice system. "For example, I think we need to legalize marijuana," he said. "Colorado and Washington have done it and they are projecting that they will get hundreds of thousands of dollars into their economies.
"It’s not a radical idea. It would free up prisons from unnecessarily housing nonviolent criminals. I think it’s a public health issue and not a criminal issue."
"I have been fascinated by politics and policy for as long as I remember," Goldstein said. "I have seen what poorly written laws and good laws do and how they affect people on a real level. Laws that cost them their jobs, cause them to lose their homes and how they get inconvenienced when they haven’t really done anything all that bad.
"I want to make sure that I am on the side of the law that helps people. I consider myself an advocate of the people who have fallen on hard times."
Harmston is a former school teacher and the past president of the Old Irving Park Association and the North River Commission. She said that she saw a window of opportunity to run in the election when Deb Mell stepped down.
"I felt that I had a lot to offer my district and not just Old Irving Park," Harmston said. "Over the years I have built my experience with many community groups and I feel that I am prepared to represent my district.
"I understand the ramifications of running as an independent Democrat. I will not have any corporate sponsors or no Madigan money, but money can’t buy name recognition and I have a chance."
Harmston said that she chaired an education committee that has led to the creation of Northside Prep High School, that she made recommendations to the Illinois Department of Transportation while chairing the Kennedy Expressway Reconstruction Coalition, and that she fought for senior housing in Mayfair Commons and North Park Village.
"There is no unity in the 40th District, and I would work hard on public education," Harmston said. "The State of Illinois has been doing an abysmal job at funding education, and we have to do something to see how we can get some of that funding back."
Harmston said that if she is elected she will work to repeal the state income tax increase and work on rolling back personal and corporate taxes in order to create jobs.
Pasieka, an engineer and the son of the original founder of Pasieka Bakery, 3056 N. Milwaukee Ave., which burned down in 2011, said that he is running because of a lack of choices among candidates and that, aside from him and Harmston, the other candidates represent elite interests.
"We have a Springfield full of lawyers that have made lobbying a legal way to pull money out of thin air," Pasieka said. "I don’t think that the people who are in charge do anything for the neighborhoods anymore. They cater to the 1 percent and the 99 percent get screwed."
"My friends tell me that I don’t have the constitution to be a politician," Pasieka said. "I look at life through numbers and input, apply a process and produce an answer because that’s what engineers do. I think that I would be able to contribute to the budget problems in this state."
Pasieka said that he would work on education and strive to bring jobs to Illinois. "We’re a business unfriendly state, and I think that the American dream is a figment of everyone’s imagination," he said.
Pasieka said that Andrade was appointed through clout and that people knew in advance that Dick Mell would appoint him. "Andrade received political training for 15 years from Richard Mell," he said.
Schiavone did not return phone calls requesting an interview. A lawyer who runs a firm in Logan Square, she said in a press release on her campaign Web site that she intends to use a combination of business acumen, political knowledge and community passion to the position if she is elected.
"The 40th District deserves qualified, experienced and passionate elected officials. No more insider politics," Schiavone said.
Schiavone said that she was elected as the 35th Ward committeeman in 2012 and that "I’ve been an independent presence on the committee and I will bring that spirit to my campaign. We need fresh voices and strong progressive leaders in Springfield."
She said that she would work in Springfield on education, jobs and the economy, and restoring the middle class.