Hamos to adjust priorities for redefined 18th District

Evan Hessel

When State Rep. Julie Hamos returns to Springfield for a third term in January, she will represent a different 18th District community from the one that first elected her four years ago.

The changes — a result of this year’s redrawing of legislative districts after the 2000 Census — cut out two of Hamos’ main Democratic bases of support. The new boundaries prompted her to adopt a grassroots campaign in order to defeat Republican challenger James O’Hara in the Nov. 5 election, she said.

“The new district is more residential and less Democratic,” Hamos said. “I focused my campaign on a strategy of visibility, getting people to know me as a candidate and as a public official.”

Hamos did not have much reason to worry. She won the race with 71 percent of the vote, despite the removal of heavily Democratic Rogers Park and part of Skokie from her district. She won 83 percent of the vote in 1998 and ran unopposed in 2000.

Redistricting added northeast Evanston, including Northwestern, to the 18th District so that it now covers 90 percent of the city. In addition, Hamos gained most of Wilmette, Winnetka, Kennilworth and part of Glencoe — all lakefront Illinois communities that historically lean Republican.

By replacing the heavily ethnic and commercial Skokie with the residential North Shore communities, redistricting presented Hamos with an electoral base unfamiliar with her background and issues, she said.

During her campaign against O’Hara, Hamos and campaign workers placed more than 1,000 yard signs around the new district. She also attended 36 coffee meetings at the homes of supporters and walked door-to-door with campaign workers from the Democratic Party of Evanston and the New Trier Democratic Organization.

“Her style is more personal and hands-on than many other politicians, who favor those automatic (phone) dialing campaigns,” said Jeanne Cleveland Bernstein, committeewoman of the Democratic Party of Evanston.

Hamos said her legislative agenda will combine issues relevant to both the old and the new districts.

The addition of more lakefront communities has made issues related to Lake Michigan particularly important, she said. Among major concerns are cleaning up beaches and reducing water pollution, she said.

Hamos seeks to create a task force to examine the West Nile virus, which killed one person and infected 39 others in Evanston late in the summer. She said she wants to meet with Cook County health officials, park district governors and water reclamation workers before next summer to discuss the virus threat.

She also will continue to work on issues she began in previous terms, including affordable housing availability, she said.

“We have a housing crisis in Illinois, and I’m not afraid to call it that,” Hamos said. “The lack of affordable housing is an issue that affects a range of people here in Evanston and around the state, from senior citizens to low income people.”

Hamos said she wants to form a housing committee in the state legislature, appoint a housing official in the governor’s office and create a statewide agency to address the issue.

“There are 18 different agencies in Illinois that work with housing, and someone needs to coordinate them,” Hamos said. “No one has done anything with housing before, so the fact that we are bringing it up for discussion makes this a big issue.”