Diane Pappas: Candidate profile


Name: Diane Pappas

City: Itasca

Website: <URL destination=" ">

</URL>Twitter: <URL destination="">

</URL>Facebook: <URL destination="">Diane for State Representative

</URL>Office sought: Illinois House, District 45

Party: Democrat

Age: 47

Family: William Pappas (Husband)

Occupation: Attorney

Education: Michigan State University, BA; Yale Law School, JD

Civic involvement: Outside of being a Precinct Committeeman for Addison Township, I was involved in preserving the environmental integrity of the Village of Itasca by being an active member of ICARE (Itasca Citizens Against Road Expansion).

Elected offices:

Democratic Party Precinct Committeeman, Addison Township Precinct 23, elected in March, 2018

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?

We need to reevaluate our current tax system in Illinois, in which the burden is disproportionately placed on middle-income families. While I'd have to see a specific plan outlined, I would support a fairer tax structure that cuts taxes on middle class families while ensuring that millionaires and billionaires pay their share. I would not support a plan that would raise taxes on the middle class.

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?

While knocking on doors, property taxes are one of the most frequent issues raised as I speak with homeowners in my community. People want to stay in our communities because of the good schools, safe neighborhoods, strong park and library systems, the transportation infrastructure and proximity to Chicago and other suburbs, and the quality of life that my district offers, but the high property taxes are making it more and more difficult for working families to realize that dream in the suburbs.

Unfortunately, a major reason that our property taxes are so high is because of Springfield's failure to meet its obligation to fund our schools and provide tax revenue to our municipalities. Unless Springfield gets its act together, our families will continue to pay the price through our property taxes.

I am very disappointed with my opponent's failure to address rising property taxes, either directly by refusing to support property tax relief measures or indirectly by refusing to support budgets that would fund our schools. I support initiatives to raise the amount of homeowners' exemption in DuPage County to provide homeowners additional relief. I also support budget plans that force Springfield to pay its share for education, lifting the burden from homeowners and allowing school districts to reduce their levy.

What is your evaluation of Gov. Rauner's job performance? Please specify what you view as its highs and lows.

We need leaders who will take charge, work with the legislature, and compromise to get things done. When the governor made the statement “I'm not in charge,” I was shocked. It's his job to work with everyone, regardless of political disagreements, to move our state forward. I believe all branches of government in Springfield need dedicated leadership that will work together for real solutions that our state desperately needs.

What is your evaluation of Speaker Michael Madigan's job performance? If you voted for him for speaker (president) in the last legislative session, please explain your vote.

I understand some want to make every race, including mine, about the Governor and the Speaker, but that's not why I decided or run or the platform that I'm running on. In my district, we have been represented by someone who doesn't share the values of the majority of the district and who has failed time and time again to show up for taxpayers when we needed her the most. I am very eager to work with everyone, on both sides of the aisle, to pass balanced budgets, fund our schools, protect affordable health care for women and keep our communities safe. That is my only priority in Springfield — the people of the 45th District.

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 believe in a democracy it should be up to the voters, not the legislature, to decide whether Illinois should adopt term limits via a referendum placed on the ballot. I would support any choice with respect to term limits made by the voters. If voters determine that term limits are right for Illinois, then I believe they should be applied across the board to all elected officials, and I am open to discussing the specifics of how long officials should be able to serve and how such a plan would be implemented.

How concerned should we be about Illinois' population loss? What needs to be done to reverse the trend?

As an immigrant, I believe in the limitless opportunities Illinois can provide and will fight for our state. There is no single solution to growing Illinois' population and keeping residents here. In my experience as a corporate counsel, I've been privy to discussions regarding location of new company facilities, so I know the factors that go into making such decisions. Illinois has the potential to check off many factors that make it an attractive location for businesses so it shouldn't be hard to convince companies to do business here, but it will take hard work and courageous decisions from our leaders.

First and foremost, we need to commit to working together to pass balanced budgets every year. The fiscal instability caused by the more than two-year budget impasse resulted in long-term damage, both financial and reputational, that will take years to fix. Businesses need to know that we're a stable state that stands behind its word and pays its bills — it's really that simple. There is nothing fiscally responsible about a state that purchases goods and services from its workers and businesses, but then doesn't pay the bills.

We also need to invest in education, both at the K-12 level and especially at the postsecondary level. Rising tuition costs, decreased opportunity for financial aid, and an out migration of talented faculty are due in large part to state-level funding cuts that these institutions have endured for years. Our universities are our best resource. We train some of the brightest minds in the country. We need to attract and retain those students, and then make sure there are ample opportunities here after graduation. The first step is getting and keeping them here in the first place, and investments in higher education is how we get there.

We also must create a tax structure that is more equitable to middle class families and small and medium-sized businesses. Such a system would provide much needed relief for hard working Illinoisans who have been bearing the brunt of Illinois' financial burden for too long, making Illinois more affordable, while ensuring that the wealthiest are paying a bit more so we can increase our investments in education and infrastructure.

Please provide one example that demonstrates your independence from your party.

Until very recently, I had not been involved in politics at all. I decided to get involved as Precinct Committeeman this year because I wanted to help inform the voters in my precinct of their choices and encourage them to vote. I never imagined getting involved beyond that until I heard that if no one stepped up, there would be no candidate actively running to oppose the incumbent in my district. For me, there was simply too much at stake to sit on the sidelines. I volunteered to run, because I believe we need better representation in our state government and that our voters deserved to have a choice.

I've been spending a lot of time going door to door, and it's clear that the people in my district want someone who will represent their interests, be accessible and accountable to them, and fight to change the status quo in Springfield. My goal in running for this office is to represent the residents of the 45th District, not the special interests or political leaders. I've committed to sponsoring no budget, no pay legislation and will push to eliminate legislative pensions and the free lifetime health care offered to retired politicians. I will also work with legislators from both Parties to protect and advance the interests of residents of District 45 and Illinois.

What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?

Other than the issues already discussed, women's issues are very important to me. We must ensure that women have the same rights to make health care decisions with the unimpeded advice and counsel of their health care providers that men do. We must also strengthen our equal pay laws to make sure that women are paid the same for the same job, closing the gender pay gap so all workers are paid a fair wage. I also believe we must make child care more affordable for working women who rely on safe child care to continue working and providing for their families. Finally, encourage girls and young women to pursue interests that in the past had not been as open to them, such as careers in the STEM fields. We must do more to lift up all Illinois women.

Healthcare is another important issue. I believe we must work harder to make health care accessible and affordable for all Illinoisans. We need to require insurers offering health care coverage in Illinois cover people with pre-existing conditions, so that those most vulnerable are not locked out of health care coverage. We also need to ensure that vital preventive care services, such as cancer screenings, are available to those who cannot afford them. Investing in preventive care is an excellent way to reduce the overall health care cost for Illinois residents.

Another important issue is investment in Education. I credit most of my own personal success to the excellent public school education I received in Addison and Roselle. When I moved to the United States at age 11, I did not speak English and was thrown into a high-stakes game of catch up. My schools and teachers worked with me and made sure failure was never an option. The schools in the community that I still live in are the reason I was able to attend college on a full-ride academic scholarship and graduate from the country's top law school. I want every single child in Illinois, regardless of their ZIP code or their family's circumstances, to have those same opportunities to thrive and excel. I believe we owe it to the next generation to guarantee that basic right to opportunity.

What's the hardest decision you ever had to make?

The hardest decisions I've had to make in my life were to attend Michigan State University and the Yale Law School. In both cases, I applied to these schools never really believing they would be viable options. Even when I was invited to participate in the competition for the full ride, academic merit Alumni Distinguished Scholarship at MSU, I only accepted because I wanted to go on a weekend campus visit, never dreaming I would ultimately be chosen as one of the 10 recipients of this prestigious scholarship. Although to many the decisions to attend a school for free would be a “no brainer,” for me it was difficult. I had been accepted to a number of great colleges in Illinois, all of which were the top choices for many of my friends. Choosing MSU would mean going to a very large school where I wouldn't know a single person and which was far enough away to make frequent visits home impractical.

When it came to law school, once again I was forced to choose between top tier law schools in the Midwest and the Yale Law School, a school even farther away from home where I would know none of my fellow students and where the private school, Ivy League culture would be very different from what I was used to at a land grant university like MSU.

What I learned from these difficult decisions is not to let personal fears get in the way of making bold choices.

Who is your hero?

Three people who may be a bit unexpected came to mind as I thought about this question.

The first was Lech Wałęsa, a man who recognized the dishonesty in the Communist Party's platitudes about workers' rights and organized the Soviet bloc's first independent labor union, which was ultimately responsible for the nonviolent overthrow of Communist rule and the return of Democracy in Poland.

The second is Jane Addams, a woman who dedicated her life and wealth to social work, helping the immigrants and the poor, and fighting for women's suffrage and world peace, ultimately becoming the first American Female recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The third is Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, a surgeon who was not only the first African-American to successfully perform pericardium surgery, but who also founded the first Chicago hospital to treat African-American patients as well as an affiliated school for African-American nurses.

All three of these individuals have my admiration for stepping out of their comfort zones, recognizing needs larger than themselves, and dedicating themselves to serving those needs.

Each amendment in the Bill of Rights is important, but which one of those 10 is most precious to you?

As someone who grew up in Communist Poland, I am keenly aware of the importance of the First Amendment as the basis of a democracy. While all of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights are important, I believe the rights listed in the First Amendment are the absolute cornerstone for everything else we think of as inherently American.

What lesson of youth has been most important to you as an adult?

I did not speak English when I arrived in the United States at age 11 and enrolled in local public schools. Moreover, I was moving from a familiar place to a new country where I knew virtually no one. It's probably difficult to understand for someone who's never experienced it, but being in a completely new world with a limited ability to communicate can be extremely isolating. I was fortunate that my teachers and the excellent support systems in my schools helped me to overcome the initial language barrier, make friends, and excel academically, but I will never forget that initial feeling of being “separate” and “different”. That experience has always led me to root for the underdog and to see the potential in everyone.

Think back to a time you failed at something? What did you learn from it?

Very early in my legal career, when I first made the transition from law firm associate to in-house counsel, I was asked by a business colleague to provide a legal opinion on a proposed business arrangement. Both in law school and at the law firm custom dictated that when asked a question, you provided a response to that question. Accordingly, I evaluated the proposed arrangement and, after determining that it posed an unreasonably high risk to the company, I advised the business colleague against pursuing the arrangement. My colleague was upset with my advice and reached out to my supervisor, who kindly agreed with my assessment but then proceeded to outline an alternate business arrangement that would reduce the risk to the company while accomplishing the majority of the business colleague's goals in pursuing the original arrangement. In a one on one meeting that followed, my supervisor explained that the role of an in-house counsel is more than a simple attorney who provides legal advice and that one of the hats we must wear is a business partner to our colleagues. Our job was to reserve the “no” answer for the rare circumstances where no alternate path was available. In all other cases, our job was to say “not this way” and to work with our business colleagues to find different paths with fewer risks to reach the same or similar goals.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.