State legislative candidates may not command the same day-to-day attention as presidential and congressional hopefuls, but Illinois is grappling with enough crises of its own this year that several Springfield races are hot enough to give Northwest suburban voters reason to head to the polls Tuesday.
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State Rep. Sidney Mathias, a Buffalo Grove Republican, is pitted against state Rep. Carol Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat, in the state's only campaign between two incumbent lawmakers.
Mathias is a 14-year veteran of the Illinois House, going to Springfield after a stint as mayor of Buffalo Grove.
Sente is finishing her first full term in the House. Appointed to replace Kathy Ryg in 2009, she previously served on the Vernon Hills Park District board.
Their relative experience has been a sticking point in the campaign, with Sente labeling Mathias a "career politician." Mathias has emphasized Sente's backing from longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, whom he calls the ultimate career politician.
On one of the biggest financial questions facing Illinois, the two split clearly.
Mathias opposes having local school districts pay more for teachers' retirements as a way to ease the state's escalating annual pension payments.
Sente says she doesn't support any existing legislation that would shift the cost to local schools. But local school districts, which give teachers raises that also raise their pension benefits, should be connected to the results of those decisions, she said.
The race for the 55th House District seat has all the elements of a political drama: an incumbent who missed her chance of being on the ballot, a one-term Democratic mayor eager to take on a new challenge, and a political newcomer getting support from House Republicans against the Democratic machine.
On Tuesday, voters will choose whether Democratic Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan or Republican Susan Sweeney represents the newly redrawn 55th District.
The seat is held by 20-year Republican state Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, who didn't collect enough petition signatures to run in the March primary.
In a surprising twist, Mulligan crossed party lines to throw her support behind Moylan based on his stance on women's issues, while denouncing Sweeney's "extreme ideology."
The race is one of the most-watched and most expensive in the state.
The candidates have sparred on several issues, including gun control, where Moylan opposes concealed carry laws while Sweeney favors them.
While neither candidate supports legislation calling for additional casinos, Moylan opposes allowing slot machines at Illinois horse racing tracks, whereas Sweeney said she would consider slots to save the racing industry.
Moylan, 61, served two years as a Des Plaines alderman before being elected mayor in 2009.
Sweeney, 56, is a Park Ridge businesswoman and community activist.
Republican Arie Friedman of Highland Park and Democrat Julie Morrison of Deerfield are vying to represent the 29th Senate District. Democratic state Sen. Susan Garrett of Lake Forest, who represented the district for a decade, didn't seek re-election this year.
On the issue of the higher individual and corporate income taxes that have been in place since January 2011, Morrison says she's willing to let them taxes fade on their own, while Friedman, of Highland Park, contends it's better to push for an immediate repeal.
Friedman, a pediatrician who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2010, said repealing the tax hike would be a key first step toward reviving Illinois' economy. He said he also would pursue reform of legal, workers' compensation and regulatory systems.
Morrison said she's against reversing the higher income tax rates before they are schedule to expire in 2015. Ending the additional income stream early likely would hurt funding of education and other vital services, she said.
Elected as West Deerfield Township's supervisor in 1997, Morrison said she'd encourage starting a discussion about tax incentives for businesses. She said some type of tax credits should be given to any businesses, not just Fortune 500 companies, that create jobs.
Republican David McSweeney and independent Dee Beaubien may be the names on the ballot, but it's a Democrat who's been at the heart of their contentious and high-priced battle for the 52nd House District seat.
House Speaker Michael Madigan has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into backing Beaubien, funding TV ads and mailers attacking McSweeney's "extreme" positions on social issues.
McSweeney, 47, has jumped at every opportunity to align Beaubien, the widow of longtime Republican state Rep. Mark Beaubien, with Madigan and the theme of spending and higher taxes.
Beaubien, 70, maintains that receiving support and even staff from the Democrats won't make her indebted, but won't say what party she'll caucus with if elected.
The candidates, both of Barrington Hills, support a concealed carry plan. But Beaubien, a retired counselor, supports gay marriage and abortion rights while McSweeney, an investment specialist who has made two runs at U.S. Congress, opposes gay marriage and supports abortion only in cases of rape, incest and when the mother's life is at risk.
Both oppose the state income tax increase and a proposal to shift pension costs to suburban school districts.
The 56th House District centered in Schaumburg has been shown to be anything but a sure thing for any candidate on Election Day. Though once staunchly Republican like many areas of the suburbs, recent years have shown that a hardworking candidate of either party can take it.
This is probably why campaigning in the district has lost all the relative politeness suburban races once boasted.
A running theme of this year's campaign was Democratic incumbent Michelle Mussman's mailers claiming Republican challenger John Lawson would hold three government jobs simultaneously if elected.
Lawson, who currently serves as a Roselle police officer and Schaumburg Township assessor, has said since March he would quit those jobs if he wins Nov. 6. But even though he repeated that promise at a Daily Herald endorsement interview in Mussman's presence, the mailers continued to come.
Mussman said she had yet to see any proof that Lawson would keep his promise, and cited a posting on his Facebook page telling a friend before the primary that he needed a couple more years to reach his 30-year pension as a police officer.
Lawson further vowed not to take a legislative pension and challenged Mussman to do the same. She stood on her record of having worked to block legislators' raises and donated 10 percent of her pay to charities in the district.
• Daily Herald staff writers Madhu Krishnamurthy, Bob Susnjara, Kimberly Pohl and Russell Lissau contributed to this report.