In the campaign for the 84th state House seat, the name Michael Madigan keeps coming up.
The Republican running for the open seat in the newly drawn district, Pat Fee of Aurora, says Madigan must be replaced as speaker of the House before Illinois legislators from both parties will be able to work together on solutions to the state's biggest problems.
The Democrat in the race, Stephanie Kifowit of Aurora, says working across party lines is possible at the state level, especially with her experience collaborating as an alderman on the Aurora City Council.
Fee, a 57-year-old homemaker and community volunteer, called her opponent a "Madigan-backed" candidate, referring to the longtime speaker of the House, who has held the post all but two years since 1983. Fee said she expects Kifowit to vote for Madigan to remain as speaker, which she believes would prevent bipartisan collaboration from occurring on issues such as pension reform.
"There will be no working together. He (Madigan) rules it the way he wants it ruled and this is where we are today," Fee said. "What Michael Madigan wants to do is shift it (pension costs) over to the schools. Guess where that's going? To the taxpayers. This can't be. You're a Michael Madigan-backed candidate, and are you going to vote for Michael Madigan to be speaker?"
In an endorsement interview and candidate questionnaire for the Daily Herald, Kifowit, 40, did not indicate if she would vote for Madigan as speaker. She said she is being supported by the Democratic Party, and campaign finance records submitted to the Illinois State Board of Elections show she has received donations from the Democratic Majority, the Democratic Party of Illinois and a $40,000 contribution from Friends of Michael J. Madigan.
Kifowit said she can envision herself working with Madigan by relying on the governing experience she has gained as an Aurora alderman.
"What I expect to do is the same thing as on the city council," she said. "The mayor (Tom Weisner) and I have not always agreed and we've worked together. The same holds true with the state of Illinois."
Kifowit, who also is a substitute teacher, said she opposes the idea of shifting teacher pensions costs to school districts and intends to make independent voting choices if elected to the state legislature.
Fee questioned Kifowit's independence, but said she is not indebted to anyone, despite receiving campaign contributions from the House Republican Organization, the Illinois Republican Party and a $5,700 boost from Citizens to Elect Tom Cross, who is the House GOP Leader.
"I'm not beholden to anybody," Fee said. "I'm in this to do what's right."
Fee and Kifowit are squaring off in the Nov. 6 election to represent the 84th District, which includes parts of Aurora, Naperville, Montgomery, Oswego and Boulder Hill.