GOP candidates Bernas, Kegarise debate who can defeat Mussman

  • Jillian Bernas, left, and Charlotte Kegarise, right, are seeking the Republican nomination for the 56th District seat in the state House.

    Jillian Bernas, left, and Charlotte Kegarise, right, are seeking the Republican nomination for the 56th District seat in the state House.

Updated 2/15/2018 4:47 PM

Jillian Rose Bernas and Charlotte Kegarise's most basic disagreement in their race for the Republican nomination in the 56th state House District is over which is more capable of defeating four-term Democratic incumbent Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg in November.

Republican voters will nominate one of them March 20 to represent the GOP in its latest attempt to reclaim the seat for the first time since former Rep. Paul Froehlich changed parties in 2007.


Bernas, who's now three years into her first term as a Schaumburg Township District Library trustee, lost to Mussman in 2016.

"I think I can beat Michelle Mussman because I've been working at it since last election cycle," the Schaumburg resident said. "I was able to close a historic 20-point-gap difference to 10 points. That's significant momentum and I hope to carry that into victory this general election."

Bernas, 35, described herself as a member of a generation ready to make major reforms to the way business is done in Springfield. She said she's more than capable of matching Mussman's energy and presence in the district.

"I've been walking since May of 2015 -- before that -- going door-to-door," Bernas said. "And I have really great local support which I think is an important thing to have when you're going up against Michelle Mussman, who also goes and walks and is very well known in the community."

Kegarise, 65, said that since she moved to Schaumburg nearly 40 years ago she's acquired at least as much experience in the community as Mussman had when she started her "Mom on a Mission" campaigns in 2010.

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But beyond that, Kegarise claims long, successful public service as a member of the Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54.

"I've served on it for 24 years and we've done some feats people thought never could be done, especially in a school district as large as ours," Kegarise said. "We balanced our budget before 2001, we're completely out of debt, we own all our own properties, our own buildings. We've added more new programs for our kids without raising the revenue at all and we lived under the Cook County tax cap already in place."

Kegarise said she recognizes that taxes are making the community less appealing to young families than it was when she and her husband started their own company in order to stay, rather than be relocated for the jobs they'd had. But she wants the area to mean the same to her young grandson as it has to her.

"And so with all my years on the school board and where I worked to get it where it is today, I feel I have a good chance of beating Michelle," Kegarise said.

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

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