As they vie to represent a district that could be affected by gambling expansion from north to south, Republican state Rep. Sidney Mathias of Buffalo Grove and Democrat state Rep. Carol Sente of Vernon Hills have split on previous proposals.
The 59th District in the Illinois House they both hope to represent stretches from Park City in the north to Wheeling in the south, nearly to Arlington Heights. And one of the most contentious issues before lawmakers in recent years has been whether to allow slot machines at Arlington Park and a new casino in Park City, among other places.
On that legislation in the last two years, Sente has voted against it and Mathias has voted for it.
Sente says gambling expansion doesn't come up much when she talks to voters, and more options could lead to more addiction.
"I think for too many citizens, it's a daily trip to the casino," Sente said.
Mathias says he doesn't like the idea of new casinos, either but has supported the proposal the last two years because he thinks the slot machines are important to the future of Arlington Park and the people who depend on the track for jobs.
"The vibes I'm getting from Arlington is if they don't get slots, they're going to close," Mathias said.
The battle between the two incumbents represents a rare chance for voters to choose between two candidates who have voted on the same legislation. A once-per-decade remapping put them in the same district and in competition with one another.
Though the two have voted the same way on other controversial proposals like the state's 2011 income tax hike (against) and a plan to give big tax breaks to Sears Holdings Corp. (for), gambling represents a clear difference of opinion between Sente and Mathias.
The issue could be important after November's election. In the weeks before the new legislature is seated in January, both lawmakers could be asked to overturn Gov. Pat Quinn's veto of a gambling plan that would put slots at the track and five new casinos in the state, including in Chicago, the south suburbs and elsewhere.
In voting for expansion, Mathias said Illinois and the suburbs are already home to lots of gambling options.
"We have to be realistic," he said. "There is gambling in Illinois."
And Sente said it's possible she could be convinced to support a future gambling proposal if it was especially small -- perhaps just slots at tracks.
"You'd have to provide a lot of data to get me over to the other side," she said.
Gambling plans in Springfield rarely stay small as provisions are added to the legislation to try to lure votes from the diverse group of lawmakers representing different areas of the state.