Who will join suburban legislators for State of Union Address

 
By Mary Hansen
mhansen@dailyherald.com
Updated 1/11/2016 9:34 PM
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  • U.S. Rep. Bob Dold has invited Lavelle Brown, left, to the State of the Union address.

    U.S. Rep. Bob Dold has invited Lavelle Brown, left, to the State of the Union address. courtesy of Bob Dold's office

  • U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth has invited Air Force veteran Loretta Coleman to the State of the Union address.

    U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth has invited Air Force veteran Loretta Coleman to the State of the Union address. courtesy of Tammy Duckworth's office.

Mark and Julie Filler of Highland Park lost their 23-year-old son, Jordan, to a heroin overdose two years ago Tuesday. The experience transformed them into anti-heroin advocates.

"We immediately said we've got to help other people. If we can help save one person or a hundred or a thousand people, we have to do everything we possibly can," Mark Filler said.

Mark Filler will attend President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address Tuesday as a guest of Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk. Through the Jordan Michael Filler Foundation, the family supports education and treatment programs on the North Shore.

Lawmakers often invite guests to highlight an issue. Travel expenses are not covered by taxpayers, several members of Congress said, but are paid by the guests or lawmakers.

Sen. Dick Durbin invited Maj. Gerry Sharpe, a Buffalo Grove native who has served in the Army for 26 years. Since 2005, Durbin has invited veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to accompany him to the address.

Other guests of suburban lawmakers include Alaa Basatneh, a young Syrian-American activist who will attend as a guest of Chicago Rep. Mike Quigley.

Basatneh is the subject of the documentary "#chicagoGirl." She helped to organize protests in Syria against President Bashar al-Asaad from her home in Des Plaines.

"By attending President Obama's State of the Union address, I hope that Alaa's story can help inspire love and compassion over fear and discrimination," Quigley said.

Congressman Bob Dold, a Kenilworth Republican, invited Lavelle Brown, a YouthBuild Lake County and Zion-Benton High School graduate to join him at the address. Brown is on the board of YouthBuild Lake County and works in construction.

Dold previously disinvited a different alumnus after it was reported he was the subject of a restraining order last year.

Congresswoman and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Duckworth invited Loretta Coleman, an Air Force veteran, AmeriCorps member and manager of the Jesse Brown VA Food Pantry.

Former Chicago Urban League CEO Andrea Zopp, a Democrat running for Senate against Duckworth, will attend the address as a guest of Democratic U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis.

First lady Michelle Obama invited Schaumburg resident Gloria Balenski to join her at the address. Balenski wrote a thank-you note to the president early last year, praising his economic policies.

Congressman Peter Roskam, a Wheaton Republican, will bring his wife, Elizabeth, to the address, a spokesman said.

Tim Ryan, an anti-heroin advocate from Naperville, will accompany Rep. Bill Foster, a Naperville Democrat.

Several members of Congress said travel and lodging expenses are not paid for with tax money. Quigley said Basatneh would pay her own way, while Foster paid for Ryan's expenses with campaign money, for example.

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