Michele Piszczor, 25, is challenging House Speaker Michael Madigan in the March 20 Democratic primary for the Southwest Side House seat he has held since 1971. Piszczor, who is half Polish and half Latino, grew up on the Southwest Side, attending John Hancock High School. A graduate of University of Texas Pan-American, she is employed as a legal assistant.
Ward Room: What makes you think you can beat a politician who hasn't lost an election in 42 years?
Piszczor: Well, first of all, he's never had a true opponent. All the people he's run against are all plants, because he's never wanted to have a real race, and no one's ever dared to run against him because of his power. People are in survival mode right now. We don't have time for childish, foolish games. People are losing their homes. There aren't any jobs. More and more corporations are closing their doors every day, and people here are intimidated and afraid to go against Madigan. People, obviously, in 42 years haven't done it. I'm like, fine, if it's going to take a 25-year-old girl to come to the realization that we're in a huge mess, then so be it.
Ward Room: Why should the voters trade the most powerful man in Illinois politics, with all his influence, for, as you said, a 25-year-old girl?
Piszczor: What has he done for us, when Illinois ranks one of the last in this country when it comes to employment, when it comes to corporation investment? He may be getting rich; his cronies may be getting rich off of our taxpaying money, but the people in the district, they're hurting. This is how stupid Madigan's people are: They put Madigan signs on foreclosed homes. Can you believe that?
Ward Room: How is he responsible for that?
Piszczor: He's speaker of the House. What legislation has he passed to sit here and help the people who are losing their homes? There are programs to help people -- the senior citizens, the freezes. Make them aware of the programs that are available to them, like the senior freeze program that will help seniors freeze their taxes, and they can actually retroactively apply.
Ward Room: What legislation would you pass to help with that problem?
Piszczor: More than anything, Ted, is to get jobs, because ultimately, we can give tax breaks all we want, but at the end of the day, that's not going to get us anywhere. You teach a person how to fish, they have fish for life.
Ward Room: What is he not doing in Springfield to bring jobs to Illinois, and what would you do?
Piszczor: Corporation investment. He increased the income tax from 3 to 5 percent. We've got Caterpillar closing their doors. We've got other industries closing their doors. What happens when corporations close their doors? People get unemployed.
Ward Room: How would you have voted on the tax increase?
Piszczor: I would repeal it. I would be so against it.
Ward Room: What would you think of a progressive income tax? People want to amend the Constitution, so if you're in a high-income bracket, maybe you pay 6 percent, and if you're in a low-income bracket, maybe you pay 2 percent.
Piszczor: But then you've got Republicans who will then complain, "I've worked hard for this money, and so why should I be punished for being successful in life?"
Ward Room: Would you have voted in favor or against the CME tax break?
Piszczor: I would be totally against that. They get all these tax breaks, and then they turn around and they stick it to us, because they're still sitting there cutting jobs. Madigan is the root of political evil in our state; he's the weed in our political garden.
Ward Room: How would you vote on the conceal carry bill?
Piszczor: I don't know. I'm out there canvassing. Ultimately, it's not my ideas. It's the people of my district's. That's why I'm out there canvassing, talking to the people of my district, hearing how they want me to vote in Springfield. Politicians too quickly put their own two cents in it, get paid by contributions that they get from people like Michael Madigan to vote certain ways. I'm out here for the people. However they wish for me to vote on these issues, that's how I'm going to vote?
Ward Room: Has that come up yet?
Piszczor: It hasn't. Their issue right now is the DREAM Act, which I am in favor of. The income tax increase, from 3 to 5 percent has been a big issue.
Ward Room: Would you have voted for or against the speed camera bill?
Piszczor: I would have voted against it.
Ward Room: There's a gay marriage bill that was just introduced. How would you vote on that?
Piszczor: That issue has not come up in my district.
Ward Room: What does the state have to do to balance its budget, if not a tax increase?
Piszczor: If we have corporations to come back into Illinois and invest and want to do investment, then that gets people to get hired. When they get hired, they get taxed, federally and state, and then they turn around and buy homes, which you then purchase a mortgage, which you get taxed on, and those people purchase products in this state, which they get taxed on.
Ward Room: So what would you to bring jobs to Illinois?
Piszczor: The taxes are incredible, overcharging these people. The environment is not conducive for corporation investment in Illinois, is the best way I can put it. I'm talking to business owners, and they're saying, 'The taxes are killing us. At this point, it's better for us to just close our doors.'
Ward Room: Madigan says you're a Republican plant.
MP: If we're going to talk about political plants, let's not be fooled by the fact that Robert Rancic in his race has never voted Republican in his life since 1988, and yet, he's running as a Republican.
Ward Room: Have you ever voted in a Republican primary?
Piszczor: No. Where are they coming up with this crap? Because Republicans have donated to my campaign? He's the chair of the Democratic Party, so what, am I supposed to go into his office and ask him to cut me a check as a legitimate candidate running against him? Is that supposed to be a joke? They're like, 'You're a Republican plant because you've received Republican money.' Have you looked at Madigan's State Board of Elections contributions? Have you seen how many Republicans are giving him money, so under that theory, he must be a Republican.