Naperville's Rep. Stava-Murray calls off plans to challenge Durbin for Senate

A Naperville state representative who raised eyebrows with comments about racial policies and actions against Democratic Party leadership has called off a brief campaign for U.S. Senate.

State Rep. Anne Stava-Murray is no longer seeking the seat held by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin in 2020, but instead is bidding for a second term in the state house from the 81st District.

She raised $175 in her campaign for Senate, according to Federal Election Commission filings - including $150 she donated herself - and says her fundraising for the position was never "serious."

Stava-Murray, a freshman Democrat, might be best known in the suburbs for saying in a Facebook comment in January that her hometown has a "history of white supremacist policies." She cited examples from racial profiling during traffic stops to discrimination in housing and home showings to largely white teacher populations as reasons for her words, which sparked rebukes and denials and at least one call for her resignation.

In Springfield, she might be best known as one of three Democrats in 34 years not to vote for Mike Madigan as speaker of the House. She said her vote of "present" came because of the "culture of sexual harassment" in state politics, which she says Madigan has not done enough to stop.

Stava-Murray announced her Senate campaign before she took office in January in the 81st District seat, which she claimed from one-term Republican incumbent David Olsen of Downers Grove.

But by March, Stava-Murray says, she called off the bid for the higher office, largely because she found out she had been mistaken in her belief that Durbin was not going to seek re-election.

So instead of trying to unseat Durbin, Stava-Murray says, she launched her own state House re-election campaign this spring, not publicizing it much largely because she wanted to avoid campaigning about the graduated income tax that she said other Democrats were facing.

Lawmakers voted in May to put a constitutional amendment allowing a graduated tax on the November 2020 ballot.

Stava-Murray initially said she didn't want another term in Springfield, where she says she encountered retaliation by Madigan for her lack of support.

She has been tracking what she sees as retribution, and although she initially planned to file a complaint against Madigan in February with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she has not yet done so.

Seven months into the job as a state representative, Stava-Murray now says she wants to stay and continue legislating to help working parents, veterans and seniors in her district.

"Staying open to the idea of retaining my seat was something that I wanted to do," she said this month. "I'd always said in the beginning, in a world where I'm not having such undue hardship at my current role, I'd rather spend more time at the current level."

So that's what she's aiming to do. She's raised $4,517 this year toward re-election, and she closed the second quarter with $1,829 on hand. She says fundraising is "going well for my model," which uses social media and direct voter contact instead of mass mailings and traditional techniques.

Stava-Murray says she's heard no other Democrats plan to run in 2020 for the 81st District seat, which represents parts of Naperville, Downers Grove, Woodridge, Darien and Bolingbrook.

Her 2018 Republican opponent, Olsen, now works as director of state affairs for the Chicago-based Alzheimer's Association and says he will not run for the seat next year. And while the talk among DuPage County Republicans is that newly elected College of DuPage Trustee Maureen Dunne of Naperville is considering a run for the 81st, Dunne downplayed the possibility.

"I have only recently been elected, in a hard-fought battle, to the College of DuPage board of trustees," Dunne said. "I ran for this position because I care a great deal about the future of the college as a resource in our community, and securing that success is my priority."

That leaves Stava-Murray making her case against an unknown foe, for now.

"Having a seat that just flipped is a very tenuous seat to have," she said. "So having an incumbent run is an advantage."

As she seeks a new term, Stava-Murray said she wants to work toward implementing a graduated income tax, which she says would help refill state coffers while offering "the best shot at helping 95 percent of my constituents not see a tax increase."

She's also gotten to meet Durbin, with whom she had never spoken when she launched, then scrapped, her Senate campaign.

During a meeting with other officials in Downers Grove Township, Stava-Murray says, she heard the longtime senator lay out his re-election platform and voiced her concerns about plans for affordable child care and paid family leave.

Stava-Murray herself won't be working on these issues in the U.S. Senate anytime soon, but she says the end of her national campaign has drawn little disappointment.

"My constituents in the district were relieved to hear that I was running for state representative again," she said.

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District 81 state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray this year has launched and canceled a campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held by Dick Durbin, and now the Naperville Democrat says she's running for re-election to the state House instead. Daily Herald file photo, November 2017
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