House District 48 candidates debate ethics reform, Madigan's leadership

  • Republican Peter Breen, left, and Democratic incumbent Terra Costa Howard are vying for the state House District 48 seat.

    Republican Peter Breen, left, and Democratic incumbent Terra Costa Howard are vying for the state House District 48 seat.

Posted10/23/2020 5:30 AM

Integrity, ethics reform and the leadership of Speaker Michael Madigan are among the key issues in a heated rematch between the candidates vying to represent state House District 48.

State Rep. Terra Costa Howard, a Glen Ellyn Democrat, says she's proud of her engagement with constituents and track record in Springfield since ousting Republican Peter Breen of Lombard in 2018. But Breen, who previously served two terms in the legislature, says he doesn't believe the incumbent has lived up to her promises, prompting him to run again as a challenger.


As a mom, attorney and small business owner, Costa Howard said she has stressed the importance of standing up for what is right. In her first term, she said, she has championed for property tax fairness and worked to pass legislation that directly impacts DuPage County, including offering more spending flexibility in hotel tax revenue.

Breen, an attorney, said he wants to curb the out-migration of Illinois residents by fighting against corruption. A former Lombard trustee and acting village president, he said the property tax burden and "broken government" are holding the state back from "exploding with opportunity, economic and otherwise."

District 48 primarily encompasses parts of Lombard, Glen Ellyn, Downers Grove, Wheaton and Lisle.

Accusations of lies and scare tactics were abundant in a recent Daily Herald endorsement interview, much of which centered around whether Madigan should step down from his leadership positions. Both candidates agree that he should, and neither intends to vote for him in the future.

But Breen accused his opponent of sticking with the "Madigan machine," even through a string of sexual misconduct allegations against his operatives. His campaign motto, he says, has been to "clean house and rebuild Illinois."

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In defense of her last vote for Madigan as speaker, Costa Howard said she was simply backing her party. But she stressed that she also was among a select group of Democratic lawmakers to call for Madigan's resignation amid the ComEd bribery scandal, saying the accusations "clearly demonstrate that the speaker's leadership has failed" regardless of whether he was directly involved.

In terms of ethics reform, Costa Howard said putting an end to gerrymandering is a top priority. As the primary House sponsor for the Fair Maps Amendment, she said she has advocated for empowering an independent commission to redraw the state's legislative districts.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the process of getting the amendment on the Nov. 3 ballot, she said, but she pledged to continue pushing for reform and strengthening residents' faith in state government.

Breen called Costa Howard's amendment "dead-on-arrival" and said the way to upend corrupt partisan mapping is through a citizen-led effort. He drafted an initiative himself, saying "the parties and General Assembly itself can't be trusted to do it on its own."


Enacting term limits is an easy first step to fighting corruption and eliminating career politicians in the legislature, Breen said, calling the move a "no-brainer."

"With a brief time in office, you have to get your work done quickly, because you'll soon be back in private life," he said in a candidate questionnaire. "As to the myriad other ethics proposals out there, we should take an 'all-of-the-above' approach."

That includes policies related to personal ethics and lobbying restrictions, which Costa Howard said she also supports.

Costa Howard said she has been speaking with colleagues on both sides of the aisle about an ethics reform package, saying the issue is bipartisan.

"I always ask, what is the goal? What is the behavior we're trying to stop or curtail?" she said. "We have to know what that is in terms of what type of ethics reform legislation we need to address."

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