The Tribune continues its endorsements for the Illinois House. You’ll find the candidates’ answers to our surveys, and all of our endorsements to date for the Nov. 6 general election, at chicagotribune.com/candidates.
48th District: Democratic newcomer Terra Costa Howard of Glen Ellyn gets offended if you question her independence from House Speaker Michael Madigan. Yet her campaign is receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars, campaign staff and paid consultants from Madigan. Sorry, but you can’t pretend to be independent with that fire hose of resources. Voters would be wise to send Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, back to Springfield. He has been firm against higher taxes and unbalanced budgets. He crossed the aisle to work on gun safety legislation. He publicly dumped Gov. Bruce Rauner, once an ally, when Rauner expanded taxpayer funding of abortion. Howard is desperate to paint Breen as extreme. But the only thing extreme in this race is the amount of Madigan money flowing to her campaign. Breen is endorsed.
49th District: Two candidates with divergent worldviews are running in this west suburban district. Republican Tonia Khouri of Aurora is a small business owner and DuPage County Board member who says she will fight for balanced budgets and pro-growth business reforms. That’s the way to bolster the middle class, in her view. Her opponent is Democrat Karina Villa of West Chicago, a social worker and school board vice president, whose parents migrated to the United States from Mexico. She believes a graduated income tax and more money for education would boost the middle class. We agree with Khouri. Spurring job creation and keeping the tax burden low is what helps middle-income families. Khouri is endorsed.
50th District: If Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, shows up on your doorstep, be prepared for a lesson in budgeting. But don’t fall asleep. This is important. Decades of bad budgeting is how the state got into its financial mess. An appropriations committee on which Wheeler sits has debated only one budget item from one state agency in four years: The committee and its agenda are controlled by the majority party, the Democrats. This is a committee that is supposed to comb through multiple agency budgets every year. The budget process is broken and the legislature’s Democrats need more checks on their tendency to tax and spend. Wheeler faces Democrat James Leslie of Aurora, a firefighter and paramedic. Leslie seems sincere and capable. But Springfield needs watchdogs. Wheeler is endorsed.
51st District: Lake County Republicans missed a chance to appoint a candidate to this seat who reflects the best of the party — conservative and compassionate. Instead, they picked Helene Miller Walsh of Mundelein, who oversees events for her husband, WIND-AM 560 radio host Joe Walsh. The seat opened up when the previous representative, Nick Sauer, resigned; Chicago and Lake County law enforcement officials are investigating allegations that he posted nude photos of an ex-girlfriend on social media. Local GOP officials got to pick Sauer’s replacement. But Miller Walsh, it turns out, had posted (and later deleted) crude and divisive remarks about Muslims, Jews and African-Americans on her social media account. Let’s just stop there. This seems like a district that needs a clean slate. Miller Walsh’s opponent is Democrat Mary Edly-Allen of Libertyville, a teacher who understands she would need to work across the aisle to reflect this GOP-leaning district. She knows high taxes are driving residents out of state. In this race, she is the better choice. Edly-Allen is endorsed.
53rd District: This race in Northwest Cook County should be a slam-dunk. The tax burden is the No. 1 complaint for middle-income homeowners. The Democrat in the race, Mark Walker of Arlington Heights, served one term in the House from 2009 to 2011 but lost his race for re-election. Voters should recall that, before leaving office, he voted for the 67 percent income tax hike, which got passed hours before the General Assembly adjourned. No accountability there. The Republican in the race, Eddie Corrigan of Arlington Heights, works for U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam. Corrigan supports restrictions on gun sales — another issue important to the district — and he knows Springfield and Washington, D.C. Most important, he would hold the line on taxes. Corrigan is endorsed.
54th District: If voters based their opinions of Rep. Tom Morrison, R-Palatine, on the mailers sent by the Democratic Party of Illinois, we might not blame them for tossing him out of office. But the mailers are half-truths. Since his 2010 election, Morrison has voted against unbalanced budgets. He votes against tax increases. The mailers claim he doesn’t support domestic violence shelters or rape kits or other items in the budget because he took a stand against fuzzy math. There’s a big difference and we hope voters see through it. Morrison is endorsed over his opponent, Democrat Maggie Trevor of Rolling Meadows, a market researcher who grew up in the district, moved away to pursue a career and returned in 2014. She says Morrison is out of touch with residents. We think his firm stance against higher taxes, against corporate bailouts and for bipartisan criminal justice reform is quite in touch. Morrison is endorsed.
55th District: We know, we know. Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines, is a popular guy. He’s friendly. We like him too. But last year in the middle of a budget crisis, he sponsored legislation to regulate what kinds of trinkets could be sold at the Illinois State Museum. He followed that with a bill that set criminal penalties for local officials who approved right-to-work zones in their towns. Jail time for mayors trying to lure economic development? Can we get serious? Moylan is portraying his Republican opponent, Marilyn Smolenskiof Park Ridge, as a gun zealot. She is passionate about self-defense and concealed carry due to a stalking incident in her life. But she is running for the seat to focus on voters’ pocketbooks. She supports a cap on property taxes, similar to Indiana’s model, and she would oppose a graduated income tax, which she believes would hit her community hard. We have endorsed Moylan in the past. But he’s gone astray of the commonsense, independent-minded approach we appreciated. Smolenski is endorsed.
56th District: Voters in this northwest suburban district must love the status quo. They seem to like House Speaker Michael Madigan’s leadership. They don’t mind high property taxes. That’s why they keep sending Rep. Michelle Mussman, D-Schaumburg, back to Springfield. Sure, she passes incremental bills now and then. She has introduced legislation to expand homeowner exemptions on property tax bills, for example. But expanding exemptions doesn’t get at the root of the high property tax problem. Neither does approving unbalanced state budgets. Her opponent, Jillian Rose Bernas, a Republican library board member from Schaumburg, supports efforts that would cap property taxes and reduce costly mandates on local governments. She has proved to be a fiscal watchdog on the library board; she voted against a recent budget because it included spending on new carpeting and wallpaper and other items she thought were unnecessary. Bernas is endorsed.
58th District: This is one of those cases where we tell voters how lucky they are. Both candidates running for this seat, currently held by departing Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, would represent voters well. Rick Lesser, a Republican and attorney from Lake Bluff, got a late start after the previous GOP nominee dropped out. Lesser is a former village trustee and describes himself as fiscally conservative and socially moderate, but this district generally favors independent-minded Democrats. Bob Morgan of Deerfield fits that mold. He is handling his own campaign and fundraising, not relying on help from the state Democratic Party. As a lawyer for the state, Morgan worked on health care and workers’ compensation policy. The legislature could use that expertise. Morgan is endorsed.
59th District: The dozens of nasty and misleading campaign mailers against candidate Karen Feldman, a Republican from Lincolnshire, should be enough for voters to question the character of her opponent, Democrat Daniel Didech of Buffalo Grove. One mailer bizarrely and wrongly suggests that Feldman supports giving kids access to assault weapons. Another suggests she would criminalize abortion — odd, given that Feldman is pro-choice. How low would Didech go to win? He’s already an elected official as Vernon Township supervisor, with a boatload of resources from House Speaker Michael Madigan. Feldman is a former village board member and real estate agent who witnesses the “Illinois exodus” through her job. She supports policies to reverse it, including capping property taxes. Feldman is endorsed.
61st District: Pretty soon, Rep. Sheri Jesiel, R-Winthrop Harbor, might be celebrating Thanksgiving alone. This district borders the Cheddar Curtain, and several of her close family members recently made the move to Wisconsin. “Every single day, someone tells me they’re leaving,” she says. She sees business booming across the border too. Foxconn’s decision to build in Wisconsin, along with a Haribo gummy bear factory and an expansion of Uline shipping company, demonstrate to her how Illinois is being overlooked. Jesiel faces Joyce Mason, a Democrat from Gurnee, who serves on the Woodland District 50 Board of Education. Mason’s top issue is tax relief. But that’s precisely what Jesiel, who consistently votes against more spending, is delivering. Jesiel has earned another term.
62nd District: We’ve gone back and forth on Rep. Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake, who was elected to this seat in 2012. He has worked across the aisle to consolidate government. He sponsored a bill calling for a voter referendum on whether the Lake County assessor should be an elected post rather than appointed. And he voted against the 32 percent income tax hike of 2017. Fifteen Republicans broke with their party and supported it. That gave House Speaker Michael Madigan wiggle room to pull vulnerable Democrats such as Yingling off the “yes” tally. He faces Republican Ken Idstein, a loan consultant from Grayslake who has a long record of community service in the district. But it’s difficult for Idstein to make a case against Yingling, who has sponsored and led on fiscally responsible legislation, such as government consolidation. Yingling is endorsed.