District 204 board member DeSart to challenge Senger in 96th House race
A clear-cut race is taking shape in the 96th House District with incumbent Republican Rep. Darlene Senger of Naperville announcing she wants to keep her job and an Indian Prairie District 204 member announcing she wants to take it.
Dawn DeSart, of Naperville, said Tuesday that she intends to file as a Democrat in the district that covers western Naperville, eastern Aurora and a small part of Warrenville. And she's already got a platform, saying her goal will be to "think big and get people working."
Nominating petitions, with at least 500 valid signatures, for the Feb. 2 primary must be filed with the state board of elections between Monday, Oct. 26 and Nov. 2.
In August, DeSart announced she had begun collecting signatures but vowed not to run unless she collected 3,000 signatures. Tuesday she said she was very close to her goal but that a conversation with Senger helped her make up her mind last week.
DeSart said the two were attending an award ceremony at Clow Elementary when Senger leaned in to her, and whispered, "So, are you running or not?"
"It just felt wrong; really bad timing. I was so surprised that she had asked me that, on a stage, in front of hundreds of students and teachers, that I replied, 'I don't know,'" DeSart said Tuesday. "She said she'd like to get together with me to convince me not to run. After that brief discussion, I knew that I had to run to give voters in our district a choice."
Senger said she was only joking when she told DeSart she'd like to talk her out of running but said her question was an obvious one.
"I was surprised to hear she was wavering about whether to run, despite all of the resources she's had in the district working so aggressively for her," Senger said. "But I always expected her to be there. And if it's not her, I expected someone to be on a ballot on the other side no matter what."
DeSart, who was elected to the District 204 school board this spring and seated in May, said she was first approached this summer by state Democratic officials about challenging Senger. Despite only serving five months on the school board, she said she's ready to make the jump to statewide office.
"Yes, some extremely difficult decisions have to be made in Springfield in the coming weeks, months and years but a big part of the job is constituency services, right here in our district," DeSart said. "I truly want to represent the taxpayers in our district. As people have seen with my votes on the school board, I am fiscally conservative."
If she were to be elected in the November 2010 general election, DeSart would have served less than half of her four-year school board term. She said she doesn't think voters would hold it against her if she doesn't finish her term.
"I work very hard at my school board job, on behalf of our district stakeholders," she said. "I'm in school buildings all the time; at sporting events; at PTA and PTSA meetings several days a week."
Senger, meanwhile, said she's shaken the freshman jitters and loves her job. So she intends to fight for it.
"I've done a good job this year representing people here and I believe I've accomplished quite a bit," Senger said. "And I've been loving it for that reason. I've been smiling a lot lately because I'm feeling really good about how the legislation process works and my role in it."
DeSart said she would immediately jump in and give back to the district, in the form of 10 percent of her state salary if elected.
"I don't know yet where the dollars will go, but as educating our children is a passion of mine; expect a large portion of the money to go directly into our schools, to benefit our students," DeSart said.
Senger is expected to announce her bid for re-election at 11:30 a.m. Thursday under the covered bridge along Naperville's River Walk.