McAuliffe, 18-year incumbent, faces political newcomer in 20th House District

  • Mo Khan, left, and Mike McAuliffe, right, are candidates for the 20th State House District in the 2014 general election.

    Mo Khan, left, and Mike McAuliffe, right, are candidates for the 20th State House District in the 2014 general election.

Updated 9/26/2014 4:04 PM

A longtime state representative for Chicago and the near Northwest suburbs is facing a fall election challenge from a political newcomer making his first general election run for public office.

Mike McAuliffe -- the only elected Republican officeholder in the city of Chicago -- has been in the Illinois House for the last 18 years and faced contested elections all but in 2000.


His latest challenge in a race for the 20th District comes from Mo Khan, a 29-year-old full-time law student from Park Ridge who narrowly won the Democratic primary election last March. Khan doesn't have the financial backing of the state Democratic Party and its chairman, Speaker Michael Madigan, and Khan says he's running an independent campaign.

McAuliffe, 50, has positioned himself as a moderate Republican, often voting with his party on fiscal and social issues, but he also has the support of a number of unions. The 20th district, which includes a portion of Chicago's Northwest Side, has historically been home to city workers, police officers and firefighters.

McAuliffe says his role has allowed him to "bring people together," whether Republican or Democrat, from the city or suburbs.

"What I feel I bring to Springfield is being conservative on certain issues, but also I represent a working-class district," McAuliffe said during a recent interview with the Daily Herald editorial board. "I don't have to be a party loyalist. I can be an independent thinker and I feel I've done that."

"Down in Springfield, the people look at me and can't figure out how a Chicago Republican can still be in office for that long a time."

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Khan, who was an aide to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2007-2008 and worked for Alexi Giannoulias' U.S. Senate campaign in 2009-10, is proposing term limits of eight years for state legislators. Khan says it's one piece of the puzzle to "restoring the public's confidence" in their elected officials.

"I've gone to thousands of doors throughout the district and people are like, 'I hate all these politicians,'" Khan said. "It's very difficult because that's what leads to people being apathetic. That's what leads to these incredibly low turnouts. Everywhere I go, I'm stressing the virtues of participating in the political process."

McAuliffe said he favored a push to get a term limits referendum question on the November ballot, but thinks voters already can decide to remove their elected officials at the ballot box.

"The general public, either if they like their state rep or don't like them, they still have a choice on Election Day to vote for him or her or not. The voters should make the call," McAuliffe said.


"I would agree with that if we didn't have gerrymandered districts," Khan responded, referring to the practice of the political party that gets to draw boundaries during redistricting after the census every 10 years making it hard for the other party to win.

"I would agree with it if we didn't have a never ending flow of special interest dollars. And I would agree with it if we didn't have very tough ballot access where we're knocking off candidates left and right," he said.

The 20th House District includes portions of Des Plaines, Rosemont, Park Ridge, Niles and Chicago's Northwest Side.

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