Roeser’s role in Madigan race criticized

Barrington businessman and conservative activist Jack Roeser is at the heart of a controversy over his nonfinancial support of one of the Democratic challengers to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in the March 20 primary.

Though he said he contributed no money to her campaign, Roeser is favoring 25-year-old Michele Piszczor of Chicago as the first person in decades who can seriously threaten Madigan’s hold on his 22nd State House District seat.

But because of Roeser’s past opposition to the Illinois DREAM Act, which provides scholarship funding for undocumented high school graduates, his support taints the candidacy of the half-Hispanic, half-Polish Piszczor, an official from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights said.

Furthermore, Piszczor’s campaign manager, Jim Edwards, also manages the Republican Renaissance PAC which Roeser strongly supports, said Joshua Hoyt, chief strategy executive for the coalition.

Piszczor said Edwards is an old friend of her family. And while she disagrees with Roeser on the DREAM Act, she welcomes his endorsement as no different from those she’s received from many Democrats and Republicans in her campaign against Madigan.

“I’m a Democrat. I voted Democrat,” Piszczor said. “In Chicago, what chance do you have to run and win as a Republican, even if you were a Republican? And (Madigan’s) the chair of the Democratic Party. Am I going to go into his office and ask for a check to run against him?”

She added that while Roeser opposed the DREAM Act, he has shown support for the Hispanic community in other ways. He employs primarily Hispanics at his company’s manufacturing plant in Carpentersville and hires instructors to help teach English to the workers.

Piszczor said no two people will likely ever agree on every issue.

Hoyt said that in discussions to try to persuade Roeser to change his opposition to the DREAM Act, it seemed Roeser was fixated more on the fact that Madigan had already supported it rather than the merits of the legislation.

Roeser said he is an admirer of the strong family values in Hispanic communities. Though Piszczor has declined his financial support, he intends to campaign on her behalf and encourage others to vote for her and donate to her campaign.

Roeser described her as an essential part of his “6+6-1” campaign — to replace six legislators in the state House, six in the Senate and eliminate Madigan.

“If we can do 6+6-1, we will save the state of Illinois,” Roeser said. “If we get rid of Madigan, we will be able to immediately change the state.”

Roeser praised Piszczor for what he called her bravery, and said the support she needs in this campaign goes beyond the usual kind.

“She needs help and protection,” Roeser said. “Her tires have been slashed on four different occasions.”

Piszczor said she appreciates Roeser’s endorsement but declined his donations so as not to add to the confusion her critics are trying to create about her party affiliation. She’s doing this even though the donations could have been very useful, she said.

“I’m so grass-roots, we can’t even afford yard or window signs,” she said.

She also strongly considered dismissing Edwards as her campaign manager to curb the coalition’s criticisms but realized she would never be able to find someone else who would stand beside her in the tough month ahead, she said.

Also in the 22nd District Democratic primary are candidates Olivia Trejo and Mike Rodriguez. Piszczor said their independence — and even that of Republican candidate Robert Handzik — should be scrutinized at least as much as hers if not more.

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