Democratic candidates for state representative gear up for primaries


Sources: Alexandra for Illinois / Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz campaign website / Facebook / Facebook / Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz campaign website /Mary Rita for State Representative Facebook / Peter Dagher for Illinois 17th Legislative District / Facebook

(Left to right) Alexandra Eidenberg, Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, Mary Rita Luecke, Peter Dagher, Candance Chow

Keerti Gopal, Reporter

With less than two weeks remaining before the Illinois primaries, the five Democratic candidates for 17th district state representative are working to stand out from the competition and win the March 20 primary.

The candidates — Candance Chow (Kellogg ’97), Peter Dagher, Alexandra Eidenberg, Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz and Mary Rita Luecke — said they will devote the next two weeks to getting out the vote. Largely aligned on most major policy issues, the candidates will focus their efforts on showcasing their individual personal and professional experiences.

Chow served as president of the Evanston/Skokie District 65 school board, attended the Kellogg School of Management and worked in non-profit consulting, an experience she said will help her address Illinois’ financial situation. Chow, still a member of the District 65 board, said a main pillar of her campaign is education reform.

“I’ve come from a very poor meager background and I was able to succeed because of education,” Chow said. “That’s what I want for every other child; it’s a pretty simple message.”

Chow said her position with District 65 has exposed her both to handling finance at the local level and tackling educational inequality.

Dagher said his international and federal experience prepares him to tackle the state’s financial challenges. Dagher worked for the campaigns of former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and has held a variety of positions in Washington, including at the Presidential Transition Committee and the Democratic National Committee.

“I’ve worked with the state of Illinois while I was at the White House,” Dagher said. “I’ve seen how they misspend money, how they have no accountability and how it basically goes into pockets, not programs.”

If elected, Dagher said he would adopt a digital accountability plan and develop a new economic strategy for Illinois. Dagher added that he is committed to lowering property taxes and generating access to affordable education and healthcare.

Eidenberg, co-founder of an insurance practice specializing in health care, said her familiarity with legislative work in Springfield — beginning with her advocacy for the Pregnancy Accommodation Act in 2014 — gives her insight into the inner-workings of state government. Eidenberg added that she thinks some of her opponents are too liberal to compete against Republicans in the 17th District.

“Everyone else in this race has no experience working across the aisle,” Eidenberg said. “I’m a strong Democrat but … we can’t just keep playing team sports while people are hanging in the balance. We need to move forward, we need to work on working across the aisle, and that’s all stuff I have experience in.”

Eidenberg emphasized small business advocacy, healthcare, education and her lasting commitment to gun violence prevention.

Human rights attorney Gong-Gershowitz, who has worked on immigration and represented violence and abuse victims, said her legal experience sets her apart.

“Having worked in the legal field representing individuals who have not had their voices heard, I bring a unique perspective of understanding the real impact of failed policies and the way government plays a role in our society,” Gong-Gershowitz said in a candidate statement.

Gong-Gershowitz said in the statement that her “family’s deep immigrant history” sets her apart from the other candidates, adding that she would focus on gun control, health care access, employment and education.

Real estate lawyer Luecke said her 30 years of time spent in the 17th District, including time as president of the District 65 school board, gives her an advantage in adapting to the role of state representative. Luecke said her top priority would be to address the state’s financial problems.

“There are a lot of things going for the state of Illinois, and right now the constant banter is how bad things are here,” Luecke said. “I don’t want to downplay that there are problems, but we need to be focusing on our assets and what it is that we have that we can build upon to make Illinois better.”

Luecke said she would focus on implementing a graduated income tax and looking for new ways of raising revenue that would not burden lower- and middle-income families.

Despite their differences, the candidates agreed on one thing: the necessity of a strong turnout on election day.

“We need to see Democrats out at the polls,” Eidenberg said. “I just want people to vote.”

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