Terra Costa Howard
Name: Terra Costa Howard
City: Glen Ellyn
Office sought: State Representative, 48th District
Family: My husband, Nick Howard, and our daughters Maddie, Libby, and Molly
Education: JD, DePaul University College of Law,
BA, Political Science/Speech Communications, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana
Member, Glen Ellyn Plan Commission (since 2015)
Member, PTA, Benjamin Franklin Elementary School
Volunteer, Glen Ellyn Junior Women's Club
Girl Scout Leader
Elected offices held:
Two terms, Glen Ellyn School Board of Education, District 41, including two years as Board President (2005-2013)
Questions & Answers
Would you vote to approve a graduated income tax? If so, what qualifiers would you impose and where would you set the brackets? What would the top tax rate be?
I will not support any significant changes to our tax system unless they are part of a comprehensive plan to completely revamp our state's unfair and outdated tax system. I also would not support a graduated tax plan that raises taxes on the middle class.
The Illinois Constitution says very clearly: "The State has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education." But instead of meeting that responsibility, our legislators have piled the cost of public schools on the backs of homeowners. Funding schools primarily through property taxes is unfair to everyone. We need representatives in Springfield who understand basic math and who will reach across the aisle and do the hard work necessary to fund our schools equitably.
How big a problem is the level of property taxation in Illinois? If you view it as a problem, what should be done about it?
The problems with our property tax system are driven by the state's failure to provide proper funding for our public schools.
I believe our leaders in Springfield have a responsibility to come up with a new plan to adequately fund education that will take some of the tax burden off the backs of property owners.
I know it won't be easy, but we can do it if we work together and put the needs of our constituents and our communities ahead of partisanship and special interests.
What is your evaluation of Gov. Rauner's job performance? Please specify what you view as its highs and lows.
Illinois is a great state, filled with smart, hard-working, innovative people who have built thousands of strong, prosperous businesses. So why can't Governor Rauner and the rest of our leaders in Springfield figure out how to pass a budget that will make it possible for our state government to pay its bills and invest in our people?
People in our district have some tough questions they'd like to ask Bruce Rauner about tax fairness, bonds and borrowing and pension funding. We deserve real answers -- and real solutions, instead of more efforts to kick the can down the road and destroy our state's credit rating.
All across our nation, state governments pass budgets every year that keep taxes fair and reasonable while funding priorities -- education, health care, and public safety. There's no reason that we can't get the job done here in Illinois.
What is your evaluation of Speaker Michael Madigan's job performance? If you voted for him for speaker in the last legislative session, please explain your vote.
As I stated in the previous question, I think that every elected official in Springfield has a responsibility to work together to end this gridlock and move Illinois forward.
The problems that we are facing today were not created by one person, and they cannot be solved by one person. We can only achieve success if we end our partisan squabbling, park our egos at the door, and work together for the good of the people who put us in office.
Should there be term limits for legislative leaders? If so, what would you do to make that happen? What other systemic changes should be made to strengthen the voice of individual legislators, limit the control of legislative leaders, encourage bipartisanship?
I think term limits sound like a really good idea to voters who are frustrated with unresponsive governments and legislative deadlock.
Personally, I believe we already have term limits in place -- the regular elections in which voters can elect new leaders to represent their districts. However, I will thoughtfully consider any proposed piece of legislation regarding term limits, and I will seek input from the people in my district before deciding how I will vote.
However, I think there's a larger issue related to this question that we need to address. I've been out knocking on doors and talking to voters for about a year now. Frankly, I was somewhat surprised to meet so many people who don't know the names of their State Representative or State Senator. That doesn't mean those voters are lazy or uninterested in government. It means that -- between their jobs and their family responsibilities -- most people are doing the very best they can just to stay on top of things.
Most people don't have a lot of free time to read political blogs or dig into newspaper questionnaires like this one. But they do know that too many of their leaders in government seem to have lost touch with the people who put them in office. That is why I knock doors each day and plan to keep on knocking doors after I am elected.
As candidates, we need to do a much better job of reaching out and listening to our constituents, instead of pursuing partisan squabbles at their expense. When voters know that their elected representatives are working for them and their communities, many of them don't want to lose those representatives to term limits.
How concerned should we be about Illinois' population loss? What needs to be done to reverse the trend?
In DuPage County, where I live, the population has been pretty stable over the past 10 years. There are many good reasons that people want to live in our communities -- good schools, safe streets, great healthcare, and plenty of amenities, like great park districts, that add so much to our quality of life.
Our stable population in DuPage tells me that people are very happy to live in Illinois when their local governments meet their needs. I think we need to look at the communities in our state that are losing population and figure out what's happening that's driving people away -- and then we need to work together to fix those problems, once and for all.
Please provide one example that demonstrates your independence from your party.
From the beginning of this campaign, I have made it clear that I am proud to run as a Democrat against a Republican incumbent whose extremist views are out of touch with this district.
My opponent has received tens of thousands of dollars from Republican party leaders, rewarding him for his support of Bruce Rauner's destructive partisan agenda. He also has accepted thousands of dollars from an ultraconservative Republican, Richard Uihlein -- who was the top donor for Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama who was accused of sexually assaulting several teen girls.
As a Democrat, it is appropriate for me to receive support from my party. Like other Democratic candidates statewide, I am glad to have access to the resources I will need to compete and win this race.
At the same time, I want voters to know that they can trust me to vote in their interests instead of serving as a rubber stamp for party leaders. So I am investing a substantial amount of my own money in my campaign, and I have brought on a team of independent advisers, including high-level campaign staff, to assure that I can look voters in the eye when I tell them that I'm working for the people, not for the party. In other words, I will always vote my district first.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
Public education is the cornerstone of our communities.
When my daughters were young, I volunteered a lot in their classrooms. So I got a firsthand view of the impact that exceptional schools can have on children's lives. That experience inspired me to run for Glen Ellyn School District 41 Board of Education. I wound up serving two full terms, including two years as Board President.
My years on the school board taught me how much our schools depend on the State of Illinois to meet the needs of our children and our teachers -- and how badly Illinois is doing in meeting its responsibilities to us and our children.
When we fund our schools, we're making an investment in the future that helps everyone in Illinois, because those kids grow up to be our employees (or, sometimes, our bosses.) That early investment in education yields decades of enormous returns -- in shared prosperity, in an expanded tax base, and in greater opportunities for everyone.
Everybody in Illinois deserves clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.
When I go to Springfield, I will stand with our environmental community in the fight to protect our open lands and natural resources and to promote renewable energy sources that will help us battle climate change.
We need to stop listening to extremists who don't "believe in" the reality of climate change. Instead, we need to work to create 21st century jobs in wind, solar and other renewable and clean energies, and we need to make sure our workers have the training they need to succeed in the new clean energy economy.
I am very proud to have won the endorsement of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club. With Trump in the White House and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency turning its back on us, we need to fight together at the state and local levels to launch a clean energy revolution and battle the shadowy special interests who threaten our environment, our health, our safety, and our lives.
• Women's Rights and Reproductive Health
My opponent is dangerously extreme in his opposition to women's rights, including our right to make our own decisions about our reproductive health. He wants to criminalize abortion, even for survivors of rape and incest.
As our state representative, Peter Breen voted against requiring health insurance plans to cover birth control. He also fought to shut down a Planned Parenthood clinic in Aurora -- even though more than 4,500 women in DuPage County go to that clinic to get birth control and other health services every year. I think it's wrong to deny low-income women the right to make their own decisions about birth control.
He also has consistently voted against laws that would help Illinois women achieve fair treatment in the workplace. Breen voted against a bill aimed at closing the pay gap between men and women in Illinois, and he actually called it "the stupidest bill we've considered." He also voted against the Equal Rights Amendment, which simply states that "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."
We need leaders in Springfield who will listen to women and respect our voices -- instead of turning their backs and trying to deny us a seat at the table.
I'm proud to be endorsed by Illinois NOW. As your next representative, I'll be a strong, independent voice for women and families in our communities, and will fight any attempts to restrict women's choices about our own healthcare and our own lives.
In addition, here a few questions meant to provide more personal insight into you as a person:
What's the hardest decision you ever had to make?
The hardest decision I've ever had to make was leaving the Public Defender's office to stay home with my daughters. I loved the work I was doing, but it was difficult to balance the demands of my job with the needs of three girls under 5. Working with the kinds of families and children I was representing, I never wanted to think that I was letting anyone down. I was afraid I would miss important milestones in my girls' lives, or that I would make a mistake and hurt one of the children I was representing. Leaving the office and the wonderful people I worked with was very difficult, but it was the right decision.
Six months later, I opened my own law practice and was quickly assigned to be a Guardian ad Litem by a judge in DuPage County. For the past 15 years, I have been appointed to represent some of our most vulnerable families. My daughters have watched me fight for these children, elderly and disabled adults, and they have learned a great deal about compassion and dedication. The difficult decision to leave a job I loved ultimately turned out to be one of the best decisions for my whole family.
Who is your hero?
My parents are my heroes. They married and had my oldest sister when they were very young. In the first years they were married, my dad worked multiple jobs while my mother was still going to school. Their families gave as much help as they could, but my parents really did it on their own. Later in their marriage, my father started his own business, and again both my parents worked multiple jobs to make sure we had everything we needed. We never realized how much our parents sacrificed for us until we were grown up. My parents have now been married 54 years, and they taught me that hard work, perseverance and love can get you through it all.
Each amendment in the Bill of Rights is important, but which one of those 10 is most precious to you?
The First Amendment has always been most significant to me, and that's even more true in today's political environment. The press is attacked daily for their reporting and accused of pursuing a political agenda without regard to the facts. Certainly, some specific news outlets may approach things from one political perspective or another; that's been a reality since the American Revolution. But even though individual reporters and news outlets may not be perfect, journalism remains the best, most independent means for citizens to access timely information about our leaders, our government, and our democracy.
What lesson of youth has been most important to you as an adult?
Doing the right thing is not always easy, but you have to do the right thing no matter what.
Think back to a time you failed at something. What did you learn from it?
During my first semester of law school, I received an almost-failing grade in a class that I had excelled in all semester. I had participated in class, the professor and I often spoke after class, my fellow classmates often asked for my thoughts on different topics, and I thought I had a thorough understanding of the subject matter.
However, there was a very painful situation happening in my personal life when I took the final exam. When I received the grade, I was devastated. Then I realized I deserved the grade I received on that test, because I had lost focus and lost sight of my ultimate goal of becoming a lawyer.
Ever since then, I have worked extremely hard to never lose focus like that again, whether in my personal or professional life. So the lesson I learned was to set a goal, have a plan to achieve it, ask for help if you need it, and don't lose focus until the job is done.