Democrats sweep local elections


Stephanie Kelly/The Daily Northwestern

State Rep. Robyn Gabel, (D-Evanston), speaks at an Evanston Democrat victory party for the midterm elections. The event drew Evanston and Cook County residents, political campaign leaders and politicians.

Ally Mutnick and Stephanie Kelly

Democrats representing Evanston won a slew of races in the midterms, claiming victory in Congressional and state re-elections.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) won by a large margin against her opponent Susanne Atanus, a Republican challenger who lives in Niles, Illinois.

Incumbent State Rep. Laura Fine (D-Glenview) beat Republican opponent Kathy Myalls in the race for Illinois’ 17th district, which includes Evanston.

All five referenda on the Illinois ballot passed Tuesday, one of which will implement a nonbinding advisory that recommends Illinois raise the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 by 2015.

State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) and State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) both ran unopposed and made appearances at a Democrat victory party in Evanston on Tuesday to celebrate their re-elections.

Members of the Democratic Party of Evanston organized the event, held at Temperance Beer Company, 2000 Dempster St., said Alex Armour, the political director for Schakowsky. The party supported all Democrats on the ballot, he said. The event drew campaign leaders, politicians and residents from Evanston and Cook County.

Schakowsky will continue to implement and improve on Obamacare, Armour said. She will keep working to combat income inequality and hopes the minimum wage raise will pass in Illinois, he said.

“She’s one of the leading lights in the system,” Biss said. “I wake up every morning saying to myself, ‘Thank God I’m represented by someone like Jan Schakowsky in Congress.’”

Gabel said in a speech at the event she was impressed by the Evanston voter turnout rate, including Northwestern students. Gabel also commended NU students for how they organized themselves to vote.

“(The high turnout rate) showed that there’s a lot of interest in being able to vote on Election Day,” she said. “It was really exciting and heartening to see … I think we can wake up tomorrow and say we have done everything that we could do and feel really good about ourselves.”

Viewers filled the brewery at the event. Evanston sisters Judy and Sarah Cochran, who volunteered for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s campaign, said the victory party was the easiest way for them to keep up with the race.

“We wanted to be here because we can probably get some insight as the polls come in to see if things are coming in as we expected them to,” Judy Cochran said. “We don’t have that insight at home.”

Because Biss and Gabel both ran unopposed in the election, Fine was the only state lawmaker representing Evanston to face a challenger.

Celebrating her victory with supporters in Glenview, Illinois, Fine reflected on the negativity of the campaign against Myalls, a Wilmette resident who works as an assistant general counsel in Chicago.

“We really tried to do what we could to keep this campaign positive,” Fine said. “It was really challenging because I felt like every time I turned around, someone was taking a bat and knocking it over my head.”

Fine, who supports all of the referenda on the Illinois ballot, clashed with Myalls over the birth control advisory, which says insurance plans with prescription drug coverage should include prescription birth control.

Myalls opposes the mandate, arguing market competition should determine coverage.

In her second term, Fine has pledged to tackle pension reform and rising public higher education costs. She said she looks forward to maintaining her good working relationship with Evanston, noting city officials don’t hesitate to reach out to her if they think she can help with an issue.

“Evanston is an amazing community,” she said. “It’s a great team relationship. They can pick up the phone, and we can work on issues together.”

Voters also passed another advisory referendum, dubbed the Millionaire’s Tax, which creates a 3 percent income tax surcharge on residents who make more than $1 million. The funds would go toward education.

Two of the referenda became amendments, one of which provides more protection for crime victims during court proceedings and criminal trials. The other amendment prohibits denying anyone their right to vote based on attributes including race, sex, religion and ethnicity.

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Twitter: @allymutnick

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Twitter: @StephanieKellyM