State Rep. Robyn Gabel faces off against Independent Sean Matlis in race for 18th District


Daily file photo by Courtney Morrison

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Christina Van Waasbergen, Reporter

State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) is running for reelection this November against Independent Sean Matlis.

Gabel represents the 18th District of the Illinois House of Representatives, and has held the seat since 2010. Before that, she served as executive director of the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for the health of women, children and families.

Gabel said her top priorities are human services and the environment.

“My background being public health, I understand that healthcare is not just about the healthcare services you get at the doctor’s office, but about your entire environment,” Gabel said.

Matlis, her opponent, is a computational neuroscientist running as an independent candidate with an anti-corruption platform.

Matlis criticized House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) for the level of control he maintains over the House. Matis said he’s running as an independent because he’s frustrated by the impact of partisanship on what he sees as non-partisan issues.

“(Madigan and his associates) have a pretty tight control over the party and state,” Matlis said. “A lot of things that people want to get done can’t get done because of the kind of control that there is there. There’s not enough negotiation and there’s not enough independence there.”

Matlis doesn’t have much political experience, but he said this also means he doesn’t have to contend with longtime connections and relationships.

Matlis said he also wants to work to change the state’s economy. Illinois has seen a significant number of residents leave for other states, which Matlis sees as evidence of the state’s economic failure.

Both the Daily Herald and the Chicago Sun-Times endorsed Gabel in the race, but the Chicago Tribune endorsed her opponent, despite supporting Gabel in 2018. The Tribune’s Editorial Board criticized Gabel for her response to Madigan’s link to a federal bribery investigation. Gabel said Madigan should resign if the allegations are proven to be true. The board felt this wasn’t a strong enough response, and that it was evidence of her “fear of holding him accountable.”

However, Gabel said the allegation she’s beholden to Madigan is “ridiculous.”

“I raise my own money, and I vote with my own conscience and the conscience of my district,” she said.

In the decade Gabel has been in the legislature, she said Madigan has only asked her for a vote once, and she said no. She said she does believe Madigan has been in the role too long, and supports the adoption and implementation of term limits. Madigan has held the position of speaker every year but two since 1983, making him the longest-serving state House speaker in U.S. history.

Additionally, Gabel said she has a track record of responding to constituents. She said each year she’s run at least one bill brought to her by a constituent.

“I think I have a track record of being an excellent legislator,” Gabel said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @cvanwaasbergen

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