Race heat up for 24th House
Incumbent, challenger field questions in Lyons forum
By Steve Metsch
A wide range of issues were discussed during a 90-minute candidate forum Monday night for the Illinois House 24th District held at the Lyons Village Hall.
Incumbent Lisa Hernandez and challenger Robert Reyes both seek the Democratic nomination in the March 20 primary election.
The hastily put together was held in Lyons even though the village is not part of the 24th District. Lyons Mayor Christopher Getty offered the spacious village board meeting room for a crowd that numbered around 75. It had been planned for the Lyons Public Library, but space there was limited, Getty said. Organizers said no sites were available in the district.
Hernandez and Reyes fielded 13 questions submitted by audience members and asked by moderator Christopher Ryan Crisanti, chairman of the forum sponsor, the Brookfield Democratic Organization. There was no debating.
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The district coves parts of Chicago’s Little Village community, Cicero, Berwyn, Stickney, Riverside and Brookfield.
A key difference in the forum was their stance on education. Hernandez said she is open to charter schools “to a degree” but added she has not supported bills to expand those.
Reyes said that “as a Democrat” he opposes charter schools. The focus should be on not offering any charters schools as an option, but rather improving public schools by improving public education funding, he said.
Property taxes remain a concern and this is on my list of priorities, Hernandez said. “Even with education funding reform, we rely on property taxes,” she added.
Reyes also found fault with the state’s lack of funding for public education, saying Illinois “ranks last in the percentage of funding” in the nation. “We need to look at states that put education as a priority.”
He said he’d tried to offer more vocational training in high schools, noting that college is not for everyone, but didn’t say how he’d accomplish that.
He and Hernandez agreed the issue of redistricting, which often leads to wildly drawn boundaries, needs to be addressed. She noted that the 24th formerly was Cicero and a portion of Berwyn.
Each candidate was asked about gun control, a hot topic given the recent shootings in Florida.“I’m for the Second Amendment,” Reyes said, “but we need some serious gun contro.”
Hernandez called herself “a strong proponent of gun control,” saying states need to pass legislation that would pressure the federal government to make some changes
Hernandez called herself a “staunch supporter of women’s rights” and pro-choice. Reyes said he is, too, but added “it’s very sad that my opponent would use the fears of women to get votes,” saying her campaign literature has linked him to President Trump, which, he said, is not true. Hernandez did not respond to that.
Reyes was critical of legislators taking donations from public utility companies, like ComEd, and then voting in favor of their increased rates. He pledged to never accept donations from any utility company.
Immigration is a big issue in the district, both noted. “Immigration is so important to our community,” Reyes said.
Hernandez said 75 percent of the district is Latino. She noted that she was in office when recent state legislation was approved which “basically does not allow our local police to become (immigration) agents.”
The last question brought laughter from each and the crowd. Candidates were asked what they admired about each other and why they deserved a vote.
Hernandez, who needed three tries before she was elected to office, said she admired Reyes because “he’s out there” and “I do admire his tenacity. However, I don’t think he is ready.”
Reyes said Hernandez “does work hard,” but reiterated that “it is time for a change.”
Before the forum, several judicial candidate, incumbents and challengers, gave what Crisanti called “their elevator speech.”
After the forum, Getty provided free pizza from Waterworks Pizzeria & Tavern, a popular business on Ogden Avenue in Lyons, along with bottles of water and a platter filled with cookies.
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