City hosts reception for State Rep. Robyn Gabel following her appointment as Illinois House majority leader


William Tong/The Daily Northwestern

Left to right: U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, State Sen. Laura Fine, State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, Mayor Daniel Biss and State Rep. Robyn Gabel. City and state elected officials celebrated Gabel’s appointment as Illinois House majority leader Saturday.

William Tong, Assistant City Editor

City leaders and local state legislators hosted a reception Saturday at the Levy Senior Center to celebrate State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston)’s appointment as Illinois House of Representatives majority leader.  

Gabel has represented Illinois’ 18th House District since 2010. As the House’s new second-in-command, Gabel will be responsible for rallying the body’s 78 Democrats, scheduling legislation and crafting legislative strategy.

“The opportunity to serve as Majority Leader now comes with the added responsibility of helping the members of a historic and diverse Democratic caucus … achieve their goals and help guiding impactful policy for our entire state,” Gabel said in a speech at the reception.

Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss, State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (D-Glenview), State Sen. Laura Fine and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) also spoke at the event. 

Gabel’s appointment gives Biss a positive outlook on Illinois’ future, he said in his remarks. 

“She’s been put in a position to have a tremendous influence on the future of this state and reflect the values of this community at a level we have not seen done for a long time,” Biss said. 

Other speakers emphasized Gabel’s efforts to pass climate change and environmental legislation. Gong-Gershowitz, for instance, credited Gabel with helping pass the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act in September 2021, which includes provisions to lower carbon emissions in the state.

Gong-Gershowitz and Fine also said they’ve benefitted from Gabel’s mentorship over the years. 

“She is the person who never fails to be there for the big things and the small things,” Gong-Gershowitz said. “She does not suffer fools, but she is as loving as she is tough.” 

Evanston residents who attended the reception said they hope Gabel will deliver positive, impactful policies as majority leader.

Barb Hiller, a former teacher and administrator in Evanston/Skokie School District 65, said she thinks Gabel truly believes in listening across the age spectrum. 

Hiller and two other long-time Evanston residents who attended the event, Sandi Johnson and Nora Mañago, live at The Mather, an Evanston life plan community. They said they hope Gabel will push amendments to the Life Care Facilities Act to give residents in these facilities more say over their care. 

“Everyone’s needs are somewhat different, and all that needs to be honored,” Mañago said. “In other words, not treating us like children, but as people who have an understanding of what aging is and what our needs are.” 

For some of the reception’s attendees, Gabel’s appointment represents an important step for women in government. 

Evanston resident Darlene Cannon, a candidate for 2nd Ward councilmember, said people should acknowledge when women are elevated to positions of political leadership.

“It’s historic, and I just wanted to be part of the celebration,” Cannon said.

Former 18th District Rep. Julie Hamos, who stepped down from her post in 2010, said Gabel will take charge of a legislature that has already made significant strides in policies relating to reproductive rights and environmental justice. 

However, Hamos said she expects Gabel will still face challenges managing the Democratic supermajority in the House.

“Everybody will have great ideas,” Hamos said. “She will have to sort through them and move the best ideas forward. Sometimes, she’s going to have to say no to people.”

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