Evelyn Pacino Sanguinetti knows the next few months will take a toll on her personal and professional lives.
But it will be worth it, the first-term Wheaton City Council member says, for a chance to make an impact in Springfield as the state's next lieutenant governor.
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Sanguinetti, selected last week by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner to be his running mate, said she's in the race to win. But she also vowed to honor her commitment to Wheaton.
Rauner and Sanguinetti face a four-way tussle to capture the GOP nomination in the March 18 primary that also will feature gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard running with state Rep. Jil Tracy; Dan Rutherford running with businessman Steve Kim; and Bill Brady running with former Long Grove mayor Maria Rodriguez.
Sanguinetti is the daughter of an immigrant from Ecuador and a refugee from Cuba. A lawyer and a teacher, she once worked as an assistant attorney general under Jim Ryan.
She spoke about her candidacy following Monday night's city council meeting. This is an edited transcript.
Q. As a first-term councilwoman, was a higher office such as the lieutenant governor a political goal of yours?
A. Politics has never been a goal for me. Period. I kind of got catapulted into this world.
I came to know Bruce Rauner about 6½ months ago when he came to speak to a Republican National Hispanic Assembly event and I was very impressed with his vision. I did not expect for his camp to contact me, but they did and I interviewed with them many times.
I knew I was being vetted but I did not know until a few days before (Oct. 7) that it was me who was selected. So I'm very humbled by that.
Q. Running a statewide campaign is time consuming. Will you continue to be effective in Wheaton?
A. Actually I spoke to a person this morning who was very concerned about a fence that was going up next to her property and I called her on her cellphone. My position with the people of Wheaton remains the same.
Q. What is the status of your seat on the Wheaton City Council? How long will you serve?
A. I took an oath to serve the people of Wheaton and I plan to adhere to that oath and serve the people until the very end, as evidenced by my phone call to a constituent this morning. We're in it together. They're my constituents. I plan on fulfilling my term. I took an oath.
Q. What is the typical day in the life of a lieutenant governor candidate this early in the process?
A. I get my kids on the bus and off to school in the morning. I go to work as an attorney all day serving my clients. At night I am on the campaign trail. I have events planned evenings and weekends.
The wonderful thing is that my children are allowed to come with me to some of the events and there are some they are very interested in attending, like festivals, so there is no disconnection.
Q. Has your family been supportive of your candidacy?
A. They think they're moving to Springfield and having unlimited access to all of the museums. I'll let them think that because they're still on board.
My husband has always been my biggest supporter. We met in law school and he's my best friend, so he's behind me 100 percent.
Q. You're a teacher and an attorney. Will you be scaling back either of those roles to campaign?
A. My teaching will have to be completely scaled back so my appearances at the John Marshall Law School would have to be limited to when professors invite me to talk about a certain topic once a semester. Teaching an entire semester is no longer fair to the students.
As far as work is concerned, that is something that, past the primary, I have already consulted with my employer and we need to look at other possibilities because I am in this race to win it.
Q. The Rauner campaign clearly felt a Latina woman was the connection it needed to reach voters. Are you prepared for that role?
A. I've been engaged in outreach for sometime now. When I was elected as councilman, my next mission was to reach out to the Latinos.
After the last presidential election, I realized there was a disconnect. Because of that, I have been engaged in outreach, interpreting material for candidates, for committeemen, going to city hall meetings and spreading the word and I will continue to do that in my capacity as a candidate. I even have a Spanish message on the website.
Q. You've also been active in educating female voters.
A. I was just slated and sworn into a special position near and dear to me with the Illinois Federation of Republican Women. I am now their third vice president.
For a few years now, I've been working with the Naperville Area Republican Women's Organization to get us moving and being a force in getting good, Republican candidates elected to office. And we've been a force to be reckoned with at the local level.
Our work resonated at the state level because I have this wonderful role where I can reach women of all walks of life and spread the message of Republicanism.
Q. In Illinois there is a long-standing debate about the need for a lieutenant governor. In fact, many who have held the post, didn't even want it. Why do you want it?
A. I most definitely want to be lieutenant governor. It's appealing to me because I will be a partner with Bruce Rauner in communicating with all units of government and I have experience in that regard. I used to work for the AG's office under Jim Ryan. In that capacity I counseled agencies at their most vulnerable moments.
So wherever Bruce is not, I will be there in his stead. The whole idea of the lieutenant governor is that should our governor not be able to serve, the lieutenant governor should be able to not skip a beat and step right in. I need to be working alongside Bruce so that if this ever occurs, I'm right there for the people and that's our mission. I will be his partner.
Q. What qualities did the Rauner campaign see in you when it selected you?
A. They told me they admired my tenacity and my life story. Clearly I came from humble beginnings and a situation where I was trapped in failing schools and I was able to get out of that.
They admired that I am a product of the safety net. I took government aid but I don't believe it's the role of government to just be government aid. It's the role of the state to give us sound jobs and good opportunities for a sound education so people that are in that safety net can get out of it and be all they can be.
I'm living proof of that and that resonated with them. I am like many people who are not looking for just a safety net, they are looking for sound jobs and good opportunities to go to good schools.
Q. What is the first order of business should your ticket be successful next November?
A. The first thing will be pensions. We have the worst pension crisis in the nation. We also must bring in jobs. In order to bring in jobs, we can't continue to turn off businesses that then choose to either leave or go to other states because we over-regulate.
We need to take a look at our workers' compensation laws. The revisions have not been enough and we're looking at premiums that are still too high. We need to enact tort reform laws.
To me, it was about good jobs and good schools and that takes people out of the safety net and into the mainstream. Those are the first matters we are going to attack when elected.
Q. It's quite a commitment to serve as a council member while running a statewide campaign.
A. I will never complain because I signed on for it and the people of Illinois are ready. This is a different climate. They're tired, both Republicans and Democrats alike, and Bruce and I are outsiders and reformers. Because of that, only we can make a difference. Only we can shake up Springfield and bring back Illinois.