Pappas named to replace disgraced Cullerton in Senate

With just a month left in the scheduled session, local Democrats have named former state Rep. Diane Pappas to replace disgraced state Sen. Tom Cullerton in the 23rd District.

Cullerton resigned earlier this month and on Tuesday pleaded guilty to a federal embezzlement charge related to no-work payments he was accused of receiving from the Teamsters union.

Pappas, who served one term as a state representative, said Thursday she was a logical choice to replace Cullerton because her experience will enable her to quickly get up to speed in the short time left in the session.

”This is by far the most stressful and the busiest time in session, and it's really hard to throw someone in there who's never done this before,” she said.

Democratic Party leaders from the townships that make up the 23rd District voted over Zoom Wednesday to select Pappas from a field of five candidates.

Pappas, an Addison Township committeewoman from Itasca, was elected to the 45th District House seat in 2019 but lost the seat two years later to Republican Seth Lewis.

Pappas said she has continued to be involved with the Democratic Party in Du­Page County and Addison Township.

A lawyer who has worked as in-house counsel for several companies, Pappas said she is not practicing now and will devote her full time to serving as senator.

She said she has not circulated petitions for the June 28 primary but could be interested if a seat that would require Democratic Party officials to choose the candidate becomes available, a possibility in the newly drawn 24th District.

State Sen. Suzanne Glowiak Hilton, an Oakbrook Terrace Democrat, currently represents that district but has filed petitions to seek the 23rd District seat. Because of redistricting, Pappas will live in the new 24th District and could run if no other Democrat seeks the seat and the party slates her after the primary.

No Democrat had filed for the seat as of Thursday. The filing period ends Monday.

Pappas said she is familiar with key issues facing the district, such as the proposed merger of Canadian Pacific Railway and Kansas City Southern and the potential for increased freight traffic in the area. She also said she hopes to address issues related to the installation of high-power electrical lines near Route 390.

Pappas said her background as a Poland-born immigrant who moved to the United States with her family at the age of 10 has affected her point of view on a key question facing Democrats — the future influence of former House Speaker Michael Madigan,

Madigan, who resigned from the House after failing to win the speakership last year, was charged in federal court last week with 22 counts of corruption. He remains state central committeeman for the 3rd Congressional District, and party leaders have called for him to resign. Pappas, however, said she sees that decision as a personal choice for the former House speaker, who she said should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

In communist Poland where she grew up, “the presumption of innocence, if it even existed, was in name only,” she said

“You shouldn't have to give up the things you've worked hard for just because you've been accused of something,” she said. “We have a judicial system because we thought that would be a fair way to determine these kinds of outcomes.”

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