Julie Morrison has been both a government staffer and an township supervisor. She has won office as both a Democrat and a Republican, and she is Susan Garrett's choice to succeed her as state senator from the 29th district.
Milton Sumption, who is challenging Morrison for the Democratic nomination in District 29, has a background in business and finance -- in both the public and private sector -- and worked for a short time as a legislative aide to U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle.
Both candidates are hoping to sway Democratic voters in the March 20 primary for the 29th district Senate seat. Morrison, 55, of Deerfield has been the West Deerfield Township supervisor for 15 years. Sumption, 48, is a business consultant from Lake Bluff. The winner will face Republican Arie Friedman, a Highland Park pediatrician, in the November election.
Garrett, first elected to the seat in 2002, announced her retirement in July.
Both Morrison and Sumption say improving the state economy and bringing jobs to Illinois and their district are their top priorities.
Garrett recruited Morrison to run for the seat and has endorsed her in the race both publicly and financially. Citizens for Susan Garrett has contributed more than $10,000 to the Morrison campaign, according to the State Board of Elections website.
Morrison has also been endorsed by U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, state Sens. Terry Link and Jeff Schoenberg, state Reps. Elaine Nekritz and Karen May, the Wheeling Township Democratic Organization and Planned Parenthood.
Although Sumption said he got a later start on campaigning for the primary, he referenced his experience in the private and public sector as evidence he's ready for the job.
"I may not have the establishment behind me, but it's the establishment that got us into some of these problems we're having now," he said.
His experience includes a mix of private and public sector work including serving in Africa with the Peace Corps and working as a legislative assistant for Sen. Tom Daschle's office in Washington, D.C. Sumption has an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School and has worked in finance for more than a decade.
Sumption added that he is a lifelong Democrat, while Morrison ran and was elected as a Republican a few times before switching parties in 2007.
Morrison said her experience as township supervisor has shown her the difficult situations that many in the district, and the state, are facing.
"I know what it looks like when these people are coming in asking for help," said Morrison.
She said her government experience has also taught her about balancing budgets. "Balancing a budget is about priorities and discipline," she said. "I can take that to Springfield with me."
Morrison worked in the Governor's Office of Manpower and Human Development in Springfield in the 1970s and in 1986 was appointed to the Statewide Advisory Council for the Department of Children and Family Services. She served on that council for 10 years and was the committee chairwoman from 1994-1996.
Neither Sumption nor Morrison wants to take established pensions away from state retirees or workers who have decades into their jobs.
As far as reforming pensions going forward, Morrison said in that terms of teachers, local school districts may have to contribute more while Sumption said the state should look for new revenue sources to close the gap.
Both candidates expressed hesitation for how the recent Sears and CME tax break deal was brokered in Springfield.
Morrison said she would like to see more transparency with tax breaks, while Sumption said he thinks he would have voted against the deal.
"When we give tax breaks we ought to understand what the return is on that investment," Sumption said.
On the question of expanding gambling in Illinois, both are concerned that adding more gambling sites will just spread the money around as opposed to bringing more money into the system.
Morrison said she would support more gambling only if there were buy-in from local governments, while Sumption said there is enough gambling in the state and adding more casinos or slot machines would not be beneficial.
In 2010, Sumption filed for the Democratic primary in the 10th Congressional District but dropped early out due to family and fundraising issues.
Sumption said he will be a strong candidate for the general election, but his fundraising totals have fallen far below Morrison's so far.
According to candidate filings from the State Board of Elections quarterly reports ending Dec. 31, Morrison had more than $63,000 available for her campaign and Sumption had less than $1,000. Sumption said that his fundraising totals have since multiplied and that he is confident in his ability to withstand the primary and general election.