New suburban lawmakers take their Springfield seats: What they want to do now
A host of new suburban lawmakers took office Wednesday as the 101st General Assembly convened in Springfield to kick off a legislative session that will continue through May.
Taking office after the blue wave of the November election, the newcomers join a legislature with the strongest Democratic majorities since 1964. There are 74 Democrats to 44 Republicans in the House and 40 Democrats to 19 Republicans in the Senate.
New state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray of Naperville was the lone Democrat voting "present" on re-electing Michael Madigan as House speaker, though she claimed in December she'd been warned by leading Democrats to expect retaliation for doing so.
Madigan won the top position in any case, as did veteran Senate President John Cullerton.
New and returning legislators say they want to work on the state budget and education as well as health care and mental health. Here is what a few of the new suburban lawmakers had to say about assuming their responsibilities.
Laura Ellman, 21st Senate District
Elected by 1,179 votes, Democrat Laura Ellman of Naperville said her priorities are reducing school districts' reliance on property taxes, limiting the power of lobbyists and shoring up the state budget.
Ellman defeated former Republican Sen. Michael Connelly in a tight election in which it took two weeks to determine the winner.
"I'm really excited about actually getting sworn in because now things can really happen," said Ellman, a 52-year-old assessor at Argonne National Laboratory. "I'm looking forward to serving the district."
The 21st District includes all or parts of Carol Stream, Lisle, Naperville, Warrenville, West Chicago, Wheaton, Winfield and Woodridge in DuPage and Will counties.
Ann Gillespie, 27th Senate District
Nearly two years ago, Ann Gillespie attended the Women's March in Washington, D.C., then returned home and got involved in local issues.
Gillespie, 59, a retired CVS Caremark executive, decided to run for office after joining We the People Mount Prospect, which fought for the expansion of Cook County's minimum wage and sick leave ordinances in the suburbs. A number of Gillespie's supporters from that group joined her for the inauguration.
"We the People not only wanted to be involved in issues but start sponsoring candidates that would come up through the grassroots," Gillespie said.
Gillespie, of Arlington Heights, defeated Tom Rooney, the former Rolling Meadows mayor who was appointed to the seat by GOP leaders in 2016. The 27th District includes portions of Arlington Heights, Barrington, Des Plaines, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, Mount Prospect, Palatine, Prospect Heights and Rolling Meadows.
Amy Grant, 42nd House District
As one of 44 Republicans in the House, Amy Grant of Wheaton said she wants to work for cooperation in the legislature.
Grant, a six-year DuPage County Board member, fills the legislative seat formerly held by Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeanne Ives.
"It is vital that the 101st General Assembly make its decisions based on the next generation and not the next election," she said in a written statement. "I believe members must work in a bipartisan basis."
Grant, a former teacher, said she also wants to focus on the state's management of education with better budgeting, accountability and ethics.
The 42nd District includes all or parts of Wheaton, Winfield, Carol Stream, Warrenville, Lisle, West Chicago, Naperville and Woodridge.
Joyce Mason, 61st House District
Gurnee's Joyce Mason made a similar pledge of bipartisanship, saying she stands "ready to work with members on both sides of the aisle to make the tough decisions necessary to shift our state upward."
Democrat Mason unseated Winthrop Harbor Republican Sheri Jesiel, who had represented the district since 2014.
"Now that the dust of a hard-fought political season has settled, it is time for us to roll up our sleeves, work together and do what is best to get our great state back on track," Mason said in a statement. She also is on the Woodland School District 50 board.
The 61st District includes much of northern Lake County.
Dan Ugaste, 65th House District
Republican Dan Ugaste says he's ready to tackle his biggest goal: "Getting the state on the right track."
Ugaste, an attorney from Geneva, was elected to replace Republican Steven Andersson, who did not seek re-election.
"I'm (doing) this to try and improve our situation in the state," Ugaste said. "We need to bring financial stability back to the state, and we need to make the state fiscally responsible again."
Neither can be achieved without addressing Illinois' pension issue, he said. Ugaste also wants to find government efficiencies to help balance the budget and increase revenue through economic growth.
"It's going to be a new experience for me," he said. "I'm looking forward to it."
The 65th District includes parts of Geneva, St. Charles, Campton Hills, Plato Center, South Elgin, Elgin, Hampshire and Huntley.
Other newcomers from the suburbs include:
• House Democrats Diane Pappas of Itasca in the 45th District, Terra Costa Howard of Glen Ellyn in the 48th District, Karina Villa of West Chicago in the 49th District, Mary Edly-Allen of Libertyville in the 51st District, Mark Walker of Arlington Heights in the 53rd District, Bob Morgan of Deerfield in the 58th District and Daniel Didech of Buffalo Grove in the 59th District.
• Senate Democrat Suzy Glowiak of Western Springs in the 24th District.
• House Republicans Deanne Mazzochi of Elmhurst in the 47th District and Tom Weber of Lake Villa in the 64th District.
• Daily Herald staff writers Lauren Rohr, Russell Lissau and Christopher Placek contributed to this report.