Candidates for Illinois House 45th, 56th districts debate coronavirus impact, state spending

  • Republican Scott Kegarise is challenging Democrat state Rep. Michelle Mussman for the House 56th District seat on Nov. 3.

    Republican Scott Kegarise is challenging Democrat state Rep. Michelle Mussman for the House 56th District seat on Nov. 3.

  • Republican Seth Lewis is challenging Democratic state Rep. Diane Pappas for the House 45th District seat on Nov. 3.

    Republican Seth Lewis is challenging Democratic state Rep. Diane Pappas for the House 45th District seat on Nov. 3.

 
 
Updated 9/17/2020 10:37 AM

Two incumbent state House Democrats and their Republican challengers from the Northwest and Western suburbs debated the governor's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the state budget during a recent Daily Herald Editorial Board interview.

The candidates are vying for seats in the 45th and 56th House districts Nov. 3.

 

Democrat Diane Pappas of Itasca faces a challenge from Republican Seth Lewis, a Bartlett insurance agent, in the 45th District. Democrat Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg faces Republican Scott Kegarise, the Schaumburg Township highway commissioner, in the 56th District.

All four candidates agreed with Gov. J.B. Pritzker's initial pandemic response, but Kegarise and Lewis criticized his actions since.

"I agree with the executive orders that occurred in May," Lewis said. "However, we're looking now at six months later, and we have a plan that indicates whether the state's going to be open or not open. We know where we're at, yet we're still operating under executive order. People are getting frustrated with this."

Lewis criticized state lawmakers for not pushing House Speaker Mike Madigan to call for a socially distanced session. Legislators have not come together as a group, except for an emergency special session held in May.

"Everyone's still getting paid, yet we're not doing the job that we're elected to do by the public," said Lewis, adding the state should have cut spending.

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Pappas said Illinois has gotten through the pandemic crisis with fewer casualties than other states because of the governor's actions.

"No one is immune from the economic impact," she added. "What we need to do is look forward again, learn from what everybody else is doing and make the best decisions going forward. I agree that the legislature does need to get involved and I'm certain that we will. We certainly can't make decisions as quickly as the governor can ... when we went into emergency session, we dealt with the emergency issues that were put before us."

Pappas said a recession is the worst time to cut spending, but rather the responsible thing to do is keeping the state budget flat.

"You don't get out of a depression by cutting government spending, and in fact, the Great Depression, what got us out of that was enhanced government spending and more government programs because the businesses were not in a position to offer employment to people and the government was," she said. "We did not cut services at a time when people needed those services the most. The government needs to serve as a bridge ... from the current situation to a time when we're past this crisis, instead of widening the chasm by cutting desperately needed services."

The 45th District takes in parts of Addison, Bartlett, Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Itasca, Roselle, West Chicago and Wood Dale.

Mussman responded to criticism about state legislators not gathering, saying there was no consensus in May to allow for remote sessions. She added, there were issues with social distancing when lawmakers came together in May.

"People had very different views about how close you could stand or whether or not you needed to wear the mask, and our members were uncomfortable being together in that situation," she said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Also, bringing together all 177 House and Senate members, as well as support and security staff and members of the public who need to be involved, with social distancing and safety measures in place, would increase costs, she added.

"The governor has much more agility to meet independently and we certainly do and can consult with him and consult with his staff about what needs to be done," Mussman said. "But trying to bring all of us back and conduct a full legislative session with voting is not as easy as it may sound."

Mussman also opposed cutting funding for services, such as education, care for seniors, veterans, people with disabilities and abused children, at a time when they need it most, and she questioned the long-term effects of doing so.

Kegarise criticized the governor's "one-size-fits-all" attitude for the entire state, for shutting down businesses for as long as he did and imposing stringent social distancing requirements for restaurants.

"There are many small businesses that shuttered their doors, restaurants that have put people out on the street, employees who are looking for their next meal because they've all been closed down," he said. "There's no discussion going on, and we need to take action now, not in December."

The 56th District includes parts of Elk Grove Village, Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Roselle, and Schaumburg.

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