More diversity on local ballots this year

Nazneen Hashmi has been doing civic work for years, knocking on doors for candidates and helping train people interested in running for office. This year, according to Hashmi and other observers of local elections, there seems to be a larger number of diverse candidates on the April 2 ballot across the suburbs.

"I know quite a few (minorities) personally who are running this year," said Hashmi, who is Muslim and running for a spot on the Elgin Community College board. "I do see that people are trying to get involved."

The 2018 midterm elections in November delivered several "firsts" for women and minority candidates, and that has helped people of diverse backgrounds increasingly feel like they have a real shot at getting elected, Hashmi said.

"Previously ... they thought, 'It doesn't matter (if I run), I won't get elected," she said. "But if we don't get involved, we'll be taking a back seat and let somebody else drive." Also vying for two ECC board seats are Adriana Barriga-Green, Shane Nowak, Clare Ollayos and Ryan Weiss.

Glenbard Township High School District 87 board candidate Mireya Vera said it was her experience as a Latina parent - such as noticing poor Spanish translations of letters to parents - that prompted her to get involved with her local school district. She was appointed to the school board in December.

"It is so critical and important to reflect the communities that you serve, the students that you serve and the parents that you serve," she said. "They have to have a voice at the table."

Also running for three seats on the Glenbard school board are Margaret A. DeLaRosa, John Kenwood and Martha Mueller.

Nafees Rahman, who is of Pakistani descent and is one of three people running for mayor in Schaumburg, said he's seen "a huge shift in the diverse group of people who are going through this (election) process" this year.

It's important for elected officials and staff members who work in local government to reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, Rahman said. If elected, he said, he wants to foster diversity in the village, whose board has no Asian members and whose population is about 24 percent Asian, according to U.S. Census estimates. Rahman is competing against Tom Dailly and Matthew Steward in the race for Schaumburg mayor.

Ekwutosi Ufodike, whose father is Nigerian, is running for trustee in Hawthorn Woods and said she's been called "crazy" for seeking elected office in the largely white suburb.

"They say, 'Ha ha, you're running but your constituents don't look like you,'" she said. "But I fell in love with Hawthorn Woods at first sight ... I'm big on family values and low taxes. Even though we may not look the same, we believe in the same things."

Steve Riess, Dominick DiMaggio, Michael David and Farah Laman also are running for three trustee seats in Hawthorn Woods.

Trak Patel, who is of Indian descent and running for trustee in Lindenhurst, said his approach to reaching voters is to talk about why he's running.

"I'm not even talking about 'I'm a diverse candidate,'" he said. "I'm talking about the issues and 'This is where we stand and this is what we want to do.' My main goal is to really talk to them about 'This is the change we want to make.'"

Stacey Kramer, Casandra Slade, Dawn Czarny, Patrick John Dunham and Heath Rosen also are in the race for three seats on the Lindenhurst board.

While there might be more minority candidates on the ballot, there's still a ways to go to achieve diversity in office, said Eva Porter, who is on the Poplar Creek Public Library board. Porter is running for a seat on the Elgin Area School District U-46 board; her husband is a trustee in Hanover Park. "When I go places (for official events), my husband and I primarily are the only African-Americans there," she said.

The other candidates for four seats on the U-46 board are Jeanette Ward, Sue Kerr, John Devereux, Tina Rio, Kathleen Thommes, Daniel Hancock and Ina Silva-Sobolewski.

Still, while diversity is important, it shouldn't be all that matters when running for office, Porter said.

"You need to have that experience," she said. "You need to have been involved in the community to know what's going on."

Young suburban residents want your vote in the April 2 election

Eva Porter
Ekwutosi Ufodike
Mireya Vera
Trak Patel
Nafees Rahman
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