Key statehouse battles take shape in suburbs
SPRINGFIELD -- Campaigns for seats in Springfield representing the suburbs are drawing lots of attention from both political parties as they wrestle for more control at the Capitol.
There's also a lot at stake for voters in the Nov. 6 election. If issues including cutting teachers' retirements and gambling expansion aren't settled this fall, they'll fall into the laps of lawmakers elected in November.
And lawmakers elected this year will decide whether to extend the state's income tax increase two years from now.
The suburbs feature the only race in the state between two incumbent lawmakers, a showdown between Democratic state Rep. Carol Sente of Vernon Hills and Republican state Rep. Sidney Mathias of Buffalo Grove. It's a rare matchup usually only possible every 10 years when legislative district lines are redrawn.
But this year, it's the races with no incumbents that dominate the suburban political scene. A wave of retirements of lawmakers from both parties and a new political map means more up-for-grabs seats than usual.
Here's a look at some of the suburban races to keep an eye on. First, the seats with no incumbent lawmakers:
Who: Democrat Melinda Bush of Grayslake vs. Republican Joe Neal of Wadsworth
Where: Most of northern and central Lake County
What: Like many candidates Neal and Bush are squaring off over jobs and taxes. Neal argues the state's income tax hike should be repealed immediately, an idea Republicans have tried and failed to accomplish. He also thinks eligibility standards should be lowered slightly so fewer Illinoisans qualify for Medicaid -- the expensive state program that pays for health care for the poor.
"I'm not asking for anything extreme," Neal said.
Bush says she'd want the income tax increase to expire as scheduled in 2015. Cutting it out sooner, she said, would lead to unrealistic levels of lost services for the elderly, disabled and others. "The only way you can cut that kind of money is to cut out the most vulnerable population," she said.
Who: Democrat Marty Moylan of Des Plaines vs. Republican Susan Sweeney of Park Ridge
Where: Des Plaines, Park Ridge and Elk Grove Village
What: Moylan is the Des Plaines mayor, running on his record of budget management at the city. Sweeney is a political newcomer in a year when both parties have at times sought to make "politician" a dirty word. They split on social issues, with Moylan favoring gay marriage and Sweeney opposing it, for example.
Who: Republican David McSweeney of Barrington Hills vs. Independent Dee Beaubien of Barrington Hills
Where: The Barrington area, and parts of Algonquin, Lake in the Hills and Hoffman Estates
What: McSweeney is touting his conservative views in an area that often votes for Republicans, and he has criticized Beaubien's backing by Democratic leaders. Beaubien has sent mailers saying McSweeney has "extremist positions."
Who: Democrat Stephanie Kifowit of Aurora vs. Republican Pat Fee of Naperville
Where: West and southern Aurora and a part of eastern Naperville
What: This contentious race is in a district that both sides consider a battleground. Both candidates are getting financial help from their respective party organizations.
Other no-incumbent races
The 29th Senate District pits Democrat Julie Morrison against Republican Arie Friedman of Highland Park. The 25th Senate District sees Democrat Connie Pierog of St. Charles against Republican Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove.
Even though open seats are attractive to both parties, both sides will try to target some incumbents, too, in an effort to gain seats in Springfield. Here are some suburban races where incumbents are in heated battles.
Who: Democratic Rep. Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates vs. Republican Ramiro Juarez of Streamwood
Where: Hoffman Estates and western Schaumburg.
What: Crespo made headlines last year as one of the architects of a tax breaks deal for Sears Holdings Corp., a deal that the company says helped keep them in Hoffman Estates. Juarez, though, has taken issue with the breaks, saying the process of granting them should have been more transparent and that local schools were harmed.
Who: Democratic state Rep. Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg vs. Republican John Lawson of Schaumburg
Where: Schaumburg, western Elk Grove Village.
What: Mussman first won office in 2010, running as an outsider. She says she learned things in her first two years in Springfield to help get things done going forward. Lawson, a longtime police officer and local assessor, says his experience means he knows what people want from a state lawmaker.
Who: Democratic state Rep. Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook vs. Republican Jonathan Greenberg of Northbrook
Where: Parts of Northbrook, Wheeling and Mount Prospect.
What: Nekritz was a key player in this year's talks to try to cut teachers' and state workers' pensions -- a deal that never got done. Greenberg criticizes Nekritz for supporting a plan that would have local school districts pay more for teachers' pensions -- a plan that could save the state money but cost local districts millions of dollars each.
Who: Republican state Rep. Sandy Cole of Grayslake vs. Democrat Sam Yingling of Grayslake
Where: Central Lake County, including Grayslake and the Round Lake area
What: Cole sits on one budget committee in Springfield and has worked on at least one budget that got bipartisan support over the last two years. Yingling has needled Cole over legislative scholarships and other issues.
Other incumbent targets
The 77th House District pits Republican state Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano of Elmwood Park against Democrat Kathleen Willis of Addison in a race already getting attention from both parties. The 23rd Senate District has Republican state Sen. Carole Pankau of Itasca against Democrat Tom Cullerton of Villa Park. The 28th Senate District sees Democratic state Sen. Dan Kotowski of Park Ridge versus Republican Jim O'Donnell of Park Ridge.