41st District primary pits social worker against financial pro for chance to oust Wehrli
A social worker and an investment data director who both want to be a state representative are seeking the Democratic Party's nomination to represent the 41st District.
Denika McMillen and Janet Yang Rohr, both of Naperville, each want to advance to the November general election to face state Rep. Grant Wehrli, a Republican who has no primary opponent.
In a state that has been battling social challenges, such as opioid overdoses, as well as fiscal ones, such as unbalanced budgets, each candidate says her expertise would best serve constituents.
The two are on the ballot for the March 17 primary in the district that includes parts of Naperville and Warrenville.
McMillen, 43, is a licensed clinical social worker who has started her own mental health practice. She grew up in Chicago and moved to Naperville in 2016 with her wife and three children, and since has gotten involved with groups including Indivisible Naperville, Naperville Neighbors United, Moms Demand Action, Planned Parenthood, and a diversity council in Naperville Unit District 203.
McMillen said her background in helping people by providing therapy and counseling gives her the ability to listen to what constituents need and act accordingly. She said she believes in an open-door policy and strives to make all people feel welcome.
"Once you open up the lines of communication, that breaks down barriers," McMillen said.
Her priorities include expending services for people with mental health conditions and substance use disorder, decreasing reliance on coal and nonrenewable sources of energy and taking more steps to improve the environment.
"If we're not dealing with that," she said, "we're not helping people."
Illinois' budget likely will remain a challenge to balance, McMillen said.
"It's important, but I don't want to get away from the needs of the people," McMillen said.
Yang Rohr, however, said she gravitates toward budget and financial issues, which are in line with her work as director of global data for Morningstar, an investment data and research firm in Chicago.
She has taken on a financial focus during her time on the Naperville Unit District 203 school board, serving since 2017 in the same district where she grew up and graduated from high school.
Yang Rohr, 39, has a husband and three children and says she will prioritize education, health care, women's rights and the environment while bringing a financial voice to state government.
"When I look at who the representatives are now, you see a lot of lawyers. You see community advocates," Yang Rohr said. "Those are obviously good positions. But you don't see lots of people with investing and finance experience."
Her campaign, Yang Rohr said, is about balance, "making sure we're being responsible to taxpayers, but still investing where it counts."
It's also about listening and bringing a "practical lens" to complex challenges such as pension funding. "When you look at the issues that Illinois has to face and has to solve, a lot of those are very budget-related and finance-related," she said. "That's a big part of what I'm trying to bring."