As Democratic candidates for the 84th District seat in the state House of Representatives knock on doors across the newly drawn district, they say voters express the most concern about one topic: jobs.
Alex Arroyo, Carole Cheney and Stephanie Kifowit, all of Aurora, each said residents want to: create instead of losing jobs, help small businesses provide them and bring more to the area.
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As they campaign another week before the March 20 primary, the three Democrats offered some ways to ease the job worries of voters they're vying to represent.
Cheney, a 51-year-old attorney, said a concept of "microlending" that's being developed in Chicago could be used statewide to assist small businesses. Creating a mentoring program for small businesses could also help them grow and possibly hire people who have been laid off from large corporations.
"Small business is an avenue for them, but we need to make it a viable avenue," Cheney said.
She also suggested the state develop manufacturing clusters by luring businesses whose products and services complement each other to locate in the same area. That way, she said, Illinois can become a leader in a certain field instead of constantly trying to compete with other states.
Kifowit, a 40-year-old Aurora alderman and substitute teacher, said the best way to address resident concerns about jobs is to work toward getting the state's finances in better shape because jobs, taxes and the state budget situation all are intertwined.
"Business enterprises want to work with a state they can trust," Kifowit said. "We've got to get the financial situation in order."
Providing small tax credits and grants to a large number of businesses -- instead of making pricey, high-profile tax deals with a few major corporations -- also would help Illinois businesses create jobs, she said.
Arroyo, a 42-year-old flight attendant, also said the state can do better in taxing companies more fairly. He said solutions that will bring more jobs can be found by organizing talks with business people, labor groups, municipalities and state government.
"We've got to create an environment to bring jobs to the area," Arroyo said.
The district the candidates are hoping to represent is a diverse one, including sections of Aurora, Naperville, Montgomery, Oswego and Boulder Hill. But all three said they're ready to work with constituents whose background may be rural or more suburban and who vary in income and ethnicity.
Arroyo said he has an edge in understanding the area's diversity because he grew up in the district and always has lived there.
Kifowit said the ward she's represented the past nine years as an Aurora alderman has the same diversity of the 84th district in terms of old and new housing and residents of different races and income levels.
"Illinois is a diverse state and this district is just a reflection of Illinois as a whole," Cheney said, adding she's striving to understand the needs of different groups within the district so she can "be their voice" in Springfield.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Patricia Fee of Aurora in the Nov. 6 general election.