Plainfield roots figure prominently in 97th House race

  • Harry Benton and Michelle Smith are the candidates for 97th state House seat.

    Harry Benton and Michelle Smith are the candidates for 97th state House seat.

Updated 10/31/2022 4:10 PM

Both Democrat Harry Benton and Republican Michelle Smith, candidates for the 97th House seat, boast deep roots in their community.

Now it's up to the district's residents to decide who is better qualified to bring those roots to the state legislature in Springfield.


Benton touts himself as the lone Democrat on the Plainfield village board, striving to work across the aisle for the benefit of residents. Smith, a two-term Plainfield Township clerk, said voters should focus on her past experience as a school board member and Plainfield precinct committee member.

The candidates disagree on many issues, including abortion and the law enforcement legislation known as the SAFE-T Act. Their differences beyond the issues, they say, also matter on Election Day.

In addition to Plainfield, the 97th House District also serves portions of Joliet, Naperville and Oswego.

"I hope that the citizens in my district will continue to elect me," Smith said. "I have proven myself to be a supporter and advocate for all people in my district, not just Republicans."

Benton disagrees with that assertion, saying the district's Republican leadership continues to thwart bipartisanship.

"There's been a lot of Republican control within the district, and the partisanship has reared its head on multiple occasions," he said. "I've worked with everybody to try and better the community. It's not about partisanship."

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Benton pointed to Smith's being a delegate for former President Donald Trump as a symbol of her lacking bipartisanship. Smith, however, said she served as a delegate simply as a party member supporting the Republican candidate.

While acknowledging their shared dedication to the district, Smith said she's separated from Benton based on her years as an elected official dating back to 2008.

"I have been so involved in this community for so long," she said. "I just think I have more knowledge and years of experience in the district, and that's why I think I'd make a better legislator."

Benton said he stands by his pledge of "transparency, honesty and bipartisanship."

"At the end of the day, partisanship doesn't get anything done," he said. "Working across the aisle gets things done for families."

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