Know your ballot: Former Winnetka village president Jessica Tucker challenges Illinois Rep. Robyn Gabel

Nora Shelly, City Editor

Fiscal responsibility, gun control and protecting the environment are at the top of the election platforms for both Illinois Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) and her opponent former Winnetka village president Jessica Tucker.

Gabel and Tucker are squaring off for the 18th District seat in the Illinois House of Representatives. Gabel was appointed to the seat in 2010. Tucker was a village trustee for Winnetka and then village president, totalling eight years of government service in the village.

Both candidates have law degrees, and Gabel spent more than 20 years before going to Springfield as the executive director of the non-profit Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition.

Tucker said at a League of Women Voters forum earlier this month that she feels balancing the budget is the most important job of the next 18th district representative. Tucker is critical of the six-month stopgap spending bill that was passed in June.

“We’ve been waiting for years for a budget,” she said. “You can see how its decimated our state, when you don’t have the fiscal house in order.”

While Tucker criticized Gabel for supporting the stopgap spending bill, the current representative said she voted for the bill because it was a necessity.

The bill ended the year-long budget impasse, which has left some social service agencies in Illinois without full state support for months and has threatened education funding.

“For me, I really look at people who were suffering without having a budget. I was concerned about higher education, I was concerned about our schools not starting on time,” Gabel said at the forum. “I said let’s at least appropriate some of the money because we know we’re going to have revenue coming in.”

Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) (above) and former Winnetka village president Jessica Tucker (below) are running for the 18th District Illinois House of Representatives seat. Both candidates say they are focused on bringing an end to the budget crisis in the state.
Courtney Morrison/The Daily Northwestern
Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) (above) and former Winnetka village president Jessica Tucker (below) are running for the 18th District Illinois House of Representatives seat. Both candidates say they are focused on bringing an end to the budget crisis in the state.
tucker_madeleinefernando_webMadeleine Fernando/The Daily Northwestern

Gabel said legislators worked together on ending the budget stalemate, but a compromise was held up in the governor’s office.

Both candidates support some gun-control reforms. On the platform section of her campaign website, Tucker says she supports background checks, limits on gun show and straw purchases as well as stopping guns from getting in the hands of mentally ill people.

Gabel has co-sponsored two bills addressing gun control. One limits the ability of mentally ill people to acquire firearms, and the other aims to crack down on gun sellers by requiring video surveillance in stores and background checks for employees.

Gabel also said at the voters’ forum that she introduced a bill introducing term limits for legislative leaders. Although the bill “went nowhere,” Gabel said leadership term limits were needed at the state level.

“Nobody should have that much power for that length of time,” she said.

Tucker agreed, although went a step further in voicing support for term limits for legislators as well. The Winnetka village president had honorary term limits, Tucker said, which she believes is the right path.

“Ten years in office is plenty of time to effectuate change and the policies and strategies that you’re interested in,” she said.

Apart from gun control and fiscal responsibility, both Gabel and Tucker said they support pension reform and environmental work. Gabel is a chief co-sponsor of the Clean Jobs Bill — which hopes to create more than 32,000 jobs in environmentally friendly fields.

Tucker said she worked as village president to expand forestry services and believes environmental work comes from “the bottom up.”

In keeping with her “socially moderate” platform, Tucker’s platform supports abortion rights, as does Gabel’s.

On school funding, Tucker and Gabel both said the state is too reliant on property taxes.

Although some area Republicans criticized Gabel for supporting Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, communications chair for the Democratic Party of Evanston Alex Morgan said electing Tucker to the General Assembly would be a “rubber stamp” for Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s agenda.

“In my view, that is not good for the state of Illinois,” he said.

Christian Sorensen, Gabel’s campaign manager, said in response to criticism that Gabel votes the party line that she has worked well with both former Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, and Rauner. As for voting frequently in line with other Democrats, Sorensen said Gabel is keeping in line with her constituents.

“Evanston tends to lean Democrat,” he said.

Tucker, on the other hand, said she ran and governed as village president of Winnetka in a nonpartisan fashion and that she will more independent in her voting patterns.

T.J. Brown, the communications director for the New Trier Republican Organization, said he trusted Tucker to represent local municipalities in Springfield in an independent manner.

“On the North Shore, you’d like to think you can insulate yourself from the problems in Springfield, but that’s quite obviously not true if you look at property taxes, if you look at the caliber of services we get out of the state,” he said.

Brown praised Tucker for being a “reformer” who could help limit the migration of Illinois residents out of the state. The state currently has one of the highest population decreases of all states.

The results of the election will be decided Nov. 8.

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Twitter: @noracshelly