One Democratic candidate running for the 23rd state Senate seat says the position is "very winnable" for his party come November.
Kevin Allen of Addison says that's why he, Greg Brownfield of Bartlett and Thomas Cullerton of Villa Park have not engaged in overly negative tactics as they campaign for the seat.
"It is important for us to engage the Democratic base and energize our voters," Allen said. "We did not want to do what the Republicans have done, which is decimate the field to win the primary, and lose the general in the process."
But the Democrats haven't hesitated to point out what separates their views.
"I think it's fair to point out policy differences and differences in approach," said Brownfield, a 51-year-old attorney.
What sets him apart, he says, is his focus on income tax reform.
"I've consistently, all along, been the only candidate who's been calling for a progressive income tax in Illinois," Brownfield said.
He cited a February report from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability in Chicago that says the state's richest people, who make more than $1 million a year, pay an effective tax rate after credits and reductions of only about 2 percent -- half of the 4 percent effective rate for workers who make between $30,000 and $500,000 a year.
"The system fails to impose tax burden in a manner that corresponds to ability to pay," the report reads.
It would take a state constitutional amendment and a referendum question to allow a graduated income tax structure. But Brownfield says Illinois residents support progressive income tax rates -- 66 percent of them did in a 2008 study by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale -- and politicians shouldn't prevent them from being implemented.
Allen, a 47-year-old marketing executive, said he has the understanding of Springfield politics necessary to tackle tough issues such as the state's financial situation. He made an unsuccessful run for the 23rd state Senate seat four years ago, and since then has been preparing for this campaign by studying topics important to the district and lobbying at the state capitol.
"I've taken a very strong stance on the fact we need to change the tone in Springfield by addressing our financial issues in substantive ways," Allen said.
Cullerton, 42, is Villa Park's village president and a route sales representative for Teamsters Local 734.
He said his experience balancing budgets, consolidating services and operating local government in Villa Park sets him apart from his opponents. He said he would focus on finding solutions to issues such as education funding by asking for ideas not only from union leaders or elected officials, but also from those who do the day-to-day work.
"We all have different ideas, but we all seem to be on the same level of 'let's get a Democrat elected,'" Cullerton said.
Democratic voters in the 23rd District, which includes parts of Bartlett, Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Itasca and Villa Park, can choose from among Cullerton, Allen and Brownfield in the primary election March 20.