The Democratic primary race to succeed Laura Fine as State Representative for the 17th District is heating up before the primary election on March 20.
The ballot is crowded, with five candidates running for Democratic nominee, including Candance Chow of Evanston, Peter Dagher of Skokie, Alexandra Eidenberg of Wilmette, Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz of Glenview and Mary Rita Luecke of Skokie. Peter Lee of Wilmette is running unopposed as the Republican candidate.
While Gong-Gershowitz has received a hefty list of endorsements from political leaders — including Laura Fine and U.S. Congressman Brad Schneider — she also has been in the spotlight for receiving campaign money from the Democratic Majority PAC chaired by House Speaker Mike Madigan. The Democratic Majority PAC has contributed more than $70,000 to the Gong-Gershowitz campaign, according to A-1 reports filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections. Reports filed with the Board of Elections also show a separate Friends of Madigan PAC has contributed $5,900 to the Gong-Gershowitz campaign.
Chow is calling on Gong-Gershowitz to return the campaign contributions, pointing to charges that Madigan was slow to respond to allegations of sexual harassment by one of his aids, Crain’s reported. In a recent flier sent to District 17 residents, Chow questioned the independence of Gong-Gershowitz. “If Mike Madigan owns her campaign, will he own her vote?” the flier states.
Chow’s campaign received a $95,000 loan from her husband, Crain’s reported.
But so far Gong-Gershowitz has made no indication that she plans to return the funds. The Chicago Tribune endorsed Chow for the Democratic primary, describing her as the “most independent candidate.” Gong-Gershowitz did not respond or show up for the Tribune’s invitation to meet with the candidates, making the newspaper’s editorial board “nervous about her, as did the gobs of money flowing to her from Madigan and his allies,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
All five candidates have information on their websites about their backgrounds, as well as their views on relevant issues. Both Luecke and Chow served as president of the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board of Education — Chow is currently serving her second term on the board. Eidenberg is a small business owner, who founded the nonprofit WeWill, which supports women and children. Gong-Gershowitz is director of the immigration law practice at the Highwood Legal Aid Clinic, and Dagher has been involved in politics and worked in the grocery industry.
Each candidate recognizes that the state’s finances is a looming issue. Dagher points to mismanagement of tax dollars and hopes to limit property taxes to prevent people from moving away. Eidenberg, Luecke, Chow and Gong-Gershowitz all support a progressive income tax as a way to broaden the tax base. Additionally, Luecke and Eidenberg favor legalizing marijuana, to create additional tax revenue; Luecke also supports a financial transactions tax.
The Wilmette League of Women Voters will be holding a primary election forum on March 3, where voters will have the opportunity to meet the candidates. For more information, go to www.lwvwilmette.org.
Registered voters can vote early March 5 -19. Times and locations can be found at www.cookcountyclek.com.