Longtime educator faces challenge from the right in 27th District Senate GOP primary

The Republican primary race in a Northwest suburban state legislative district in many ways is a microcosm of the GOP intraparty battles happening statewide and nationally.

On one side in the 27th District Senate race is Bill Robertson, a one-time Palatine-Schaumburg Township High School District 211 board member, former Palatine zoning board member, and Mundelein-based Fremont Elementary District 79 superintendent who stepped down in March after nearly five years in the job.

Robertson, of Palatine, is backed by party leadership, including Illinois Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie, who transferred $24,000 from his campaign fund to Robertson's campaign and appeared at a fundraiser for Robertson Wednesday night at Cooper's Hawk Winery in Arlington Heights.

On the other side is Joshua Alvarado, a retired Army sergeant first class and first-time political candidate from Rolling Meadows who says he was encouraged to run by the Arlington Heights Tea Party group.

He's been endorsed by the Palatine and Elk Grove townships' Republican organizations; Palatine Township Republican committeeman Aaron Del Mar has given Alvarado $4,000, and the latter has donated $3,500.

The Wheeling Township GOP endorsed Robertson.

During a recent interview with the Daily Herald Editorial Board, Alvarado said he decided to run for office in response to the state's COVID-19 mitigations over the last two years, believing Gov. J.B. Pritzker and legislators "did not respect our rights." Alvarado said he wants to see more legislative oversight, where the governor has to come to lawmakers for any extensions of emergency orders.

Robertson declined to participate in the Editorial Board interview, or a subsequent request for an interview Friday, but in a candidate questionnaire he filled out for the Daily Herald, he wrote that state government "could have responded so much better" to the COVID-19 crisis, especially in terms of children and education.

"Decisions in each school district should be made by the parents, students and local leaders in those communities, not bureaucrats in Springfield or Washington," Robertson wrote. "This was especially evident during COVID, where leaders in many school districts had whiplash from how often we would work with our community to develop a plan, then have to change everything last minute because of a new state directive. While the state needs to do more to support education, we must reduce mandates because there is no one-size-fits-all solution to education - every school district is different."

Education in local schools was a topic during the endorsement interview, with Alvarado claiming school districts in the area are teaching critical race theory, which he believes is the same as what many districts call social-emotional learning. He said after George Floyd's death in 2020, one of his children came home from school in Palatine Township Elementary District 15 saying, "I can't breathe."

"My kids' teacher was trying to explain to them how the police oppressed people that look like me and my children," said Alvarado, who is Hispanic. "And I (had to say), 'No, no, no, no, no, that's not right - the police don't do that. The police are here to take care of us and hopefully protect our communities.'"

Alvarado said one of his top priorities, if elected, would be to repeal updated sex education standards Pritzker signed into law last year.

Alvarado, who manages SAT Media, which does video production for conservative causes and candidates, acknowledged that some of his views have rankled traditional GOP establishment.

"I have been told some of the things that I say aren't good for the party, and my response 90% of the time is that they're not good for the party," he said.

The winner of the June 28 primary will face Democratic incumbent Sen. Ann Gillespie in the Nov. 8 general election. The 27th District includes all or parts of Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect, Rolling Meadows, Palatine and Prospect Heights.

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