Race to Watch is a twice weekly Ward Room column dedicated to helping voters familiarize themselves with candidates in the lead-up to the March 15 primary elections. This week’s focus is the 22nd District Illinois House race.
Incumbent Mike Madigan will face fellow Democrats Jason Gonzales, Joe Barboza and Grasiela Rodriguez in the race for Illinois' 22nd District House seat. No Republican candidates have filed for the election. The 22nd District is located on Chicago’s Southwest Side and includes Midway International Airport.
Madigan has served as the state representative for the 22nd district since 1971. He has served as Speaker of the House since 1983, with the exception of two years. This is the longest anyone has held that post in the state's history.
The speaker recently ranked 5th in Chicago Magazine’s Power 50, which ranks the most influential Chicagoans.
Madigan previously served as 13th Ward Democratic committeeman in Chicago and chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois.
Throughout the state’s budget impasse, Madigan has been one of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s staunchest opponents. The state has been without a budget since July of last year.
During a budget summit last December, Madigan championed moderate alternatives to Rauner’s proposed overhaul.
"The solution to the budget deficit problem does not lie in the extreme but rather lies in moderation," Madigan said.
Rich Miller, editor of Capitol Fax, once wrote, “the pile of political corpses outside Madigan’s Statehouse door of those who tried to beat him one way or another is a mile high and a mile wide.”
Madigan’s oldest daughter, Lisa, currently serves as the Attorney General of Illinois.
Jason Gonzales, a 41-year-old consultant running his first political campaign, is posing a formidable challenge to Madigan's campaign for re-election.
During the course of his campaign, Gonzales has faced resistrance from the Madigan political machine. A Madigan aide waited for Gonzales at the Illinois State Board of Elections as he filed to run for the March 15 Democratic Primary ballot and subsequently filed for two additional candidates to appear on the ballot. Those candidates are Joe Barboza and Grasiela Rodriguez.
“Diluting the ballot is the oldest trick in the book," Gonzales told Ward Room, "but we don’t believe it’s going to change things very drastically."
In 1991, after dropping out of high school in his teens, Gonzales spent two months in jail for the unlawful use of credit cards. All told, Gonzales was convicted of six crimes between 1991 and 1994.
After these incidents, Gonzales re-enrolled in high school at 21 and eventually graduated from Duke, MIT and Harvard.
Gonzales was pardoned for his crimes in 2015 by former Governor Pat Quinn.
He is a champion of closing the funding gap in public schools and increasing funding for higher education and job training programs. Gonzales also claims to be committed to ending the pension crisis.
Barboza and Rodriguez will be included on the primary ballot but have not actively campaigned for the election. Neither candidate has a website or committee information.
The Democratic primary will be held March 15.