State Rep. Rita Mayfield has refused to tell the Daily Herald if she's ever been arrested, saying she believes potential employers and other people shouldn't be allowed to ask such a question.
A question about criminal history appeared on the questionnaire sent to all of the candidates in races the Daily Herald will cover ahead of the Nov. 6 election. Mayfield answered most of the questions but left blank one that asks if the candidate has ever been arrested or convicted of a crime.
When asked about the omission in a telephone interview, the Waukegan Democrat said she has backed legislation that would make it illegal for employers and landlords to ask applicants about arrest records. She sponsored one such bill in early 2011, records show, but it never made it to the full House floor for a vote.
Mayfield said she didn't answer the Daily Herald's question to stand in solidarity with her constituents.
"I have an issue with the question itself," Mayfield said. "I don't feel that question is fair to the people of my district."
Mayfield is seeking re-election in the 60th District, which includes Waukegan and parts of North Chicago, Beach Park and Gurnee. Her Republican opponent, Jackie Burleson of Waukegan, answered the criminal-history question with a simple "no."
Burleson said he believes people have a right to know about candidates' pasts "because it affects how you act in the future."
"People can change, but you have to be responsible for your actions throughout life," he said.
The Daily Herald began asking political candidates about any criminal histories following the media's failure to thoroughly investigate Chicago pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen before he became the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2010.
After Cohen won the nomination, the public learned he had been accused of abusing his ex-wife and holding a knife to the throat of an ex-girlfriend, which led to criminal charges that eventually were dropped.
Cohen bowed to political pressure and quit the ticket.
In the interview with the Daily Herald, Mayfield said she wouldn't object to employers asking about domestic violence or drug arrests.
"I think that part is important," she said.
Later in the conversation, Mayfield said she has never been convicted of a crime but continued to resist questions about arrests.
Even so, Mayfield insisted she wasn't being evasive.
"I will not answer it because I'm trying to change it," she said.
Mayfield said she wouldn't be able to work as a contractor at the Great Lakes Naval Station if she had a criminal history. When asked about that job, she refused to divulge details.
"What I do does not interfere with my job as a state representative," she said.
Burleson told the Daily Herald he works in construction.
Mayfield was appointed to the House after state Rep. Eddie Washington died in June 2010. She won a full term that November.