Pension reform, tax cuts top priorities for state Senate District 25 candidates
In the race for state Senate District 25, the two candidates vying for the Republican nomination say their priorities include restructuring the pension system and lowering the tax burden.
But West Chicago resident Jeanette Ward and opponent Beth Goncher of Aurora have different approaches and levels of experience that each says makes her most qualified to replace outgoing Sen. Jim Oberweis, an Aurora Republican who is now running for Congress.
The winner of next week's primary will face Democrat Karina Villa, currently the state representative for the 49th district, in November.
Goncher, 49, says she's "under no illusions" about the difficulty of serving as a Republican in the General Assembly. She's been active in the party for years, working as a volunteer and staff member for former U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren and state Rep. Tim Schmitz.
Though she has unsuccessfully sought elected positions on the Kane County Board and state House District 50, Goncher says her political experience and connections have given her insight into what it takes to be in the state legislature.
"A lack of collaboration and a lack of electing people with the right temperament to work with others is something that drew me to this position," she said. "I feel like nothing is getting done. We're becoming even more divided. But I still believe that Illinois has its best days ahead of us."
In seeking the state senate seat, Ward, 46, said she wants to "defend life, liberty and sound fiscal policy."
"I think this district needs representation like I can give," she said. "It's a good fit for a conservative like me."
She previously served one term on the Elgin Area School District U-46 school board before losing her reelection bid in 2019. During her tenure, she ruffled feathers with controversial comments and positions on policies, such as school funding and access to bathrooms for transgender students.
But Ward followed through on her promises, she said, including working to move plans forward for the district's first charter school. She also fought to give every elected board member access to closed-session recordings -- "something I was able to accomplish in minority and by building coalition."
That collaboration across party lines is going to be necessary in finding ways to reduce the tax burden and implement pension reform, which Ward said is the "No. 1 thing that we need to look at." She wants to end double dipping and change the state's defined benefit plan to a defined contribution system.
Ward also believes Illinois has the most radical abortion law in the country, saying "no one should be forced to pay for another person's choice."
Goncher agreed pensions are the biggest strain on the state's budget, but any major reform will likely require a constitutional amendment approved by the voters.
The General Assembly can take other smaller steps in the meantime to "reduce redundancies," she said, such as ending unfunded mandates placed on school districts. That process should begin with an independent forensic audit.
The 25th District includes portions of Aurora, Bartlett, Batavia, Campton Hills, Elburn, Geneva, Montgomery, Naperville, North Aurora, Oswego, Plano, South Elgin, St. Charles, Sugar Grove, Warrenville, Wayne, West Chicago and Yorkville.