March primary likely final word for these hopefuls
The March primary election is likely the big show for a number of suburban incumbent state lawmakers whose only challenges so far come from members of their own party.
Four sitting Republicans and two Democrats have drawn primary election challengers at a time when no one from the opposite party has signed up to run. The opposite party can put someone on the ballot by the summer, but that candidate would have to collect petition signatures and would face a steep disadvantage in a late start.
So for some voters who have an opinion either way about their current representation, March 18 is the time to voice it.
In a handful of the Republican challenges, the two candidates appear ready to do battle over who is the most conservative.
For starters, former acting Lombard Mayor Peter Breen is challenging 10-year veteran state Rep. Sandra Pihos for the Illinois House, criticizing her for voting against the major public worker pension cuts approved by lawmakers last year.
"I'm going to come at issues as more of a fiscal conservative," Breen said. "We're going to live within our means with me in the General Assembly."
Pihos said she voted down both pension bills because she felt "they didn't get the job done."
"I voted no because parts of it were just smoke and mirrors," Pihos said. "I don't know how my opponent would have voted. I see who he is aligned with, and they all voted no on this as well."
The two are vying for the 48th House District, which includes Glen Ellyn, Lombard and parts of Lisle.
In Lake County, two Republicans, state Rep. Ed Sullivan of Mundelein and Bob Bednar, also from Mundelein, will face off in the primary election in a race that also has no declared candidates from opposing parties.
Bednar recently named Lake County GOP Vice Chairman Jack Koening his campaign chairman, picking a backer who opposes Sullivan over his vote for same-sex marriage.
Sullivan said last October that he was "willing to lose his job over this issue," but that it wouldn't "be without a fight."
However, Bednar said he is not running against Sullivan because of his vote on same-sex marriage and instead wants to cut back on "reckless government spending."
"Jobs are leaving Illinois," Bednar said. "When we lose that business we raise taxes on everyone else who has stayed."
The 51st District they'll compete for includes Libertyville and Lake Zurich.
Republican State Rep. Ron Sandack of Downers Grove also voted for same-sex marriage and drew a primary election challenger, teacher Keith Matune of Downers Grove. No candidates from other parties are in the race.
Sandack and Matune have already tussled over a 1991 arrest of Matune for apparently overdrawing his checking account when he was in college. The 81st District includes parts of Downers Grove, Woodridge and Darien.
And elsewhere in DuPage County, two Republicans, freshman state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton and Adam Johnson of Warrenville, square off for a seat that also will be decided by the primary, since there are no other challengers.
Ives said the key to getting the job done right in Springfield is knowing the issues completely, which takes time. She's spent her first year backing a plan to move public workers' future retirement benefits into 401(k)-style plans.
"There's no doubt this is a full-time job, and I'm treating it like that," she said.
Johnson called her ineffective and said being in the minority party is no excuse for not getting more done.
"Every other Republican in DuPage County has dealt with that problem and has passed legislation," Johnson said.
They are competing for the 42nd District that includes Wheaton and parts of Carol Stream.
Two suburban Democrats face primary election challenges as well, but no Republican opponents.
In the race for the 39th District state Senate seat, incumbent Don Harmon will be challenged by attorney Bob Galhotra of Chicago. Galhotra said he decided to run because he was mad about how Illinois government has been run by his party.
"What I plan on doing differently is not being beholden to my Democratic Party," Galhotra said.
Harmon, the Oak Park Democrat and a top lieutenant of Senate President John Cullerton, cited his experience as why he deserves to stay in the Senate.
"In the legislature I have been a leader, and have worked to cast votes even when it's hard," Harmon said.
Rep. Kathleen Willis, an Addison Democrat, is running for a second term in the 77th District. She will take on challenger Antonio "Tony" Favela, a Democrat and former librarian from Melrose Park.
Willis is a freshman lawmaker seeking her second term in Springfield. In 2012 she defeated longtime Republican state Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano of Elmwood Park, who is now mayor of the town. But this time around, no Republican challenger has signed up to take on the winner of the March 18 primary.