Sente, Munger engaged in bitter battle for 59th House District
A bitter political battle is emerging in the North suburbs in a closely contested race for state representative.
The 59th House District race between incumbent Democrat Carol Sente and Republican challenger Leslie Munger has been marked by negative mailers, TV ads and robocalls from both sides, fueled by a steady stream of campaign cash from state party leaders.
Democrats have donated more than $243,000 to Sente's campaign, while Republicans have given more than $35,000 to Munger, according to reports filed with the state board of elections.
Sente, 53, of Vernon Hills, who was appointed to the seat in 2009 and elected in 2010 and 2012, says she's a fiscal conservative and social moderate who's received endorsements from groups often on opposite sides, such as the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and labor unions.
"We need moderates in Springfield," Sente said. "We need moderates on both sides who like to compromise and work together. That's what I would tell the voters. An ideologue, someone who is hanging out on either end of the fringe, I see them in Springfield. They don't get up, cross the aisle, come up with an alternative solution, or get anything done."
Munger, 57, of Lincolnshire, is making her first run for elected office after a career as a marketing executive at Helene Curtis. She says she's running because the state is "at a fiscal tipping point" and needs to loosen its business regulations and cut spending. She said critical services shouldn't be touched, but everything else is "fair game," and the first thing she'd target is Medicaid fraud.
Sente's campaign has put out a robocall that says Munger opposes a law that keeps pedophiles from working in schools and would eliminate a law requiring schools to conduct background checks on school employees. Sente said that's the real-world impact of Munger's opposition to unfunded mandates -- state regulations that legislators approve without giving money to local governments to implement them.
"Politicians like Leslie Munger like to talk in sound bites that appeal to the right-wing base, like getting rid of all unfunded mandates," Sente said. "While that sounds great to the right-wing, the practical application is that requirements for sex offender checks would be eliminated."
Munger said the accusation is "ridiculous" and stretches her position on unfunded mandates, which she believes add costs to municipalities and schools, later borne by residents in the form of higher property taxes. She said she favors background checks, which cost $5 to $50 and sometimes have to be paid by the prospective employee.
"I was talking about unfunded mandates that are a million here, a million there," she said.
House Republicans have put out robocalls of their own against Sente and set up a website, notsente.com, that accuses Sente of having "a secret partner she does not want you to know about. She claims to be independent, that's not true."
The "truth," according to the website, will be revealed Oct. 31 at midnight.
Munger says her campaign doesn't have any control over the website and hasn't been told by state party officials what will be revealed, but she suspects it will link Sente to House Speaker Michael Madigan.
"She is connected to Madigan. She is chained at the hip with him. She votes with him," Munger said.
Sente says she's stood up to the powerful House speaker by voting against the 2011 income tax increase, supporting its sunset in 2015, opposing a so-called millionaire tax and progressive income tax proposal, and by introducing term limits legislation for General Assembly leaders.
"He knows exactly my position that he's been there too long," Sente said.
The 59th District includes parts of Buffalo Grove, Gurnee, Libertyville, Lincolnshire, Long Grove, Mundelein, Vernon Hills and Wheeling.