Senate candidates Murphy, Thillens differ on direction of the state

Voters from Rosemont to Roselle will get to choose from two candidates for state Senate this November who have contrasting visions for Illinois.

Democratic incumbent Sen. Laura Murphy, appointed to the post last October, is being challenged by Republican Mel Thillens for a 4-year term representing the 28th district, which includes large portions of Des Plaines, Elk Grove Village, Park Ridge and Schaumburg.

It's neither a "red" nor "blue" district politically, though Murphy's predecessor, Democrat Dan Kotowski, held the seat for nearly a decade before stepping down last year to take a job with a nonprofit.

Murphy, 56, worked in alcohol and tobacco abuse prevention for the Illinois Liquor Control Commission until Democratic committeemen from the suburbs appointed her to the Senate seat. She served as Des Plaines' 3rd Ward alderman from 2001 to 2009.

Thillens, 44, vice president of the Chicago-based armored car company that bears his family name, is making his second run for state office after narrowly losing to State Rep. Marty Moylan two years ago. Moylan's 55th House district is on the east side of Murphy's Senate district. Thillens has served on the Park Ridge Park Board since 2011.

The two candidates outlined their differences on the issues in recent interviews with the Daily Herald Editorial Board.

Murphy is proposing legislation to close what she calls tax loopholes that allow too many corporations to pay little or no state tax.

She called Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposals on workman's compensation and tort reform, along with other parts of his so-called Turnaround Agenda, "an attack on the middle class."

"Some of these recommendations tend to be a race to the bottom," Murphy said. "I firmly believe that when we educate our youth, when we have an educated workforce, that's what drives corporations to come into a community."

Thillens said he wants to improve the state business climate that he believes is to blame for businesses and residents leaving.

He said workman's compensation costs are the biggest problem for Illinois companies. He believes reducing those costs and pealing back government regulations will allow the economy to grow.

But Thillens says he does differ from Rauner in style.

"I think he came in a little bit heavy and a little bit strong," Thillens said. "I'm more of a guy who builds relationships. I run a business and that's what I do all day every day with my co-workers and vendors and customers. When we come to a problem, we work together and get things done."

Thillens is getting financial support from business groups, while many of Murphy's campaign contributions have come from unions.

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