Both candidates for the newly created 59th Representative District are touting their political independence.
And both are saying that they have either openly broke with leadership or taken steps that went against the grain.
Rep. Carol Sente, a Democrat, said, "I'm not a party person. I think we focus too much on parties."
She prefers to call herself a problem solver who looks forward, adding, "The one thing I don't want to do is use my own party as an excuse for why I can't get something done. And I don't think anyone should use our leaders for an excuse why we can't get something done."
Sente is receiving much of her campaign funding from the Democratic Party, whose state chair is Michael Madigan, the House speaker known for his tight control over the movement of bills through the chamber.
In her third-quarter campaign finance report, filed Monday, out of $231,481 in receipts, she shows $80,000 from the Democratic Party and $59,000 from Friends of Michael J. Madigan. And of $92,245 in in-kind contributions, all but $1,000 is from the Democratic Party or the Democratic Majority. Altogether, party sources controlled by Madigan provided 71 percent of her funding in the quarter.
Sente said she doesn't let that funding constrain what she does in Springfield. She has put forward a bill that limits the terms of leaders to 10 years. Madigan has held the speaker's post for 27 of the last 29 years.
"I want a turnover in leadership, too. I personally encourage other members of my bipartisan caucus to run for leader. I would love to vote for somebody else. I like a closer balance of power."
Sente says that before she was appointed to fill an unexpired term, "I don't know what I would have called myself before, because I would tell you I was an independent."
As a result of her independence, she said, she has taken heat from her leadership, not just for the term limits bill, but also for voting against the state income tax increase.
"I'm in the speaker's face all the time, and he's in mine," she said.
But she also said, "The speaker is a symptom of an issue. I think the bigger issue is that the legislators as individuals have lost control. And whoever is in that role, if the rules don't change, and if we don't take the power and return it back to the individuals, we're in the same boat."
Rep. Sidney Mathias said he appreciates Sente's term limits bill, adding, "I have had that bill for the last four years that I filed year after year, and it hasn't gone anywhere, but it's a great idea, and that's why, I'm sure, she filed it. It's certainly not a new idea, since I have been filing that year after year, and the speaker has, like anything, put it into the Dumpster like every other bill."
Mathias said he not only filed a term limits bill, but has also played a part in overthrowing former House Republican leader Lee Daniels.
"In fact, Lee Daniels … was the one who asked me to run. And yet when I saw what was going on with his method of leadership and when I saw what was going on with innuendoes going around about what happened -- his chief of staff actually unfortunately went to jail, I said, 'We need a change.'"
Mathias said this was risky, noting that you only get one chance at overthrowing a leader.
"You had better make it, because if you don't, you're not going to be around.
"I challenged that leader, and I got him out, and we, as a small group of legislators, met and we were able to say, 'You know something? Enough. Enough of Lee Daniels.'"
Mathias' third-quarter campaign disclosure report shows receipts of $82,243, none of it from the Republican Party. Of $67,769 in in-kind contributions, though, all except $4,397 is from the Republican Party and the House Republican Organization. And he has received $17,128 in party money since Oct. 1. Overall, 48 percent of his funding is from party sources. He has said he expects to raise a majority of his funding on his own.
Both Mathias and Sente said they are adept at reaching across the aisle to reach bipartisan solutions.
"I am known in the house for passing more Senate Democratic bills. They come to me and said, 'Wait. Did you pick this up to kill it?' And I say, 'No, I picked it up to pass it.'"
"I'm proud to be a Republican, but I'm also an independent. If you don't work with all parties, you're not going to be successful."
Sente said, "I don't think anyone has extended themselves more (than me) to try and, not just say, reach across the aisle, but to do it."