Race to Watch is a twice-weekly Ward Room Column dedicated to helping voters familiarize themselves with candidates in the lead-up to the Nov. 8 general election. This edition's focus is Illinois House of Representatives District 20.
Incumbent Republican state Rep. Michael McAuliffe is facing a tough bid for reelection against Democrat Merry Marwig in Illinois' 20th House District.
The district includes portions of Chicago’s Northwest Side, as well as parts of Park Ridge, Des Plaines, Schiller Park, Norridge, Harwood Heights, Niles, Rosemont and Franklin Park. McAuliffe has represented the district since 1997. He was elected following the death of his father, former state Rep. Roger McAuliffe, a former Chicago police officer who served in the Illinois General Assembly for twelve straight terms.
While in office, McAuliffe has worked to address what his campaign calls “the area’s most problematic issue,” noise from O’Hare International Airport. He has called for the expansion of outdated noise contour and demanded tax credits for noise insulation for those under new flight paths. The Republican has also worked to provide incentives to airlines that adhere to Fly Quiet rules.
McAuliffe, an advocate of fiscal responsibility, has stood up against higher taxes and overspending in the state. The state representative believes that keeping our roads safe and funding state services and schools are essential parts of Illinois’ government.
The Republican also wants to bolster the state’s health care, advocating for increased cancer screenings, strengthening the Illinois family medical leave act and raising awareness for Hepatitis C treatment and screenings, a personal issue for McAuliffe.
In Springfield, he has advocated for police and fire workers, voting to override Gov. Rauner to protect their pensions. In the past year, he has co-sponsored legislation that would guarantee surviving spouses of Chicago police and fire workers are properly taken care of if anything happens to their loved ones, something Rauner has since vetoed. Additionally, he sponsored legislation that would institute harsher punishments for assaulting officers.
McAauliffe, a Republican serving a district that includes portions of the largely blue Chicago, claims he is committed to finding bipartisan solutions to the state's problems. He has worked with Democrats to expand personal sick leave and has voted against Rauner on legislation defending Illinois’ prevailing wage.
“I have consistently worked with my colleagues across the aisle to get things done,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “I have fought to bring O’Hare noise relief for homeowners, crossed party lines to protect the wages of workers in private unions, and worked with my state senator, John Mulroe, to ensure women have access to 3D mammograms. Leaders in both parties need to take more cues from rank-and-file legislators like myself who are willing to put politics aside in order to govern effectively.”
“Bi-partisanship is not a luxury in the State of Illinois, it is a necessity,” he added.
On Monday, the Illinois Republican Party released an ad tying Marwig to powerful House Speaker Mike Madigan. The ad accuses Marwig of having her property taxes lowered twice as part of an “inside game" that has saved Madigan’s friends millions and forced taxpayers to pay more.
Marwig rebuffed the attack Thursday, faulting McAuliffe for taking money from Rauner.
“For Mike McAuliffe — a 20-year politicians who has personally benefitted from a property tax appeal — to use money from Bruce Rauner — who also benefitted from property tax appeals — to attack my family for going through the legal process of correcting a government error in an unfair tax bill is another sad example of what’s wrong with the politics and hypocrisy that local residents are so fed up with,” Marwig said in a statement. “It also serves as proof that our communities need a new voice in the state capitol who will put the needs of struggling families ahead of hypocritical political games.”
Marwig, a political newcomer who lives in Chicago’s Norwoord Park neighborhood, previously worked with a local company that manufactures tea in Illinois. She helped the company expand its business from operating in 13 stores to 180 in less than a year.
Her campaign told Ward Room she’s running for office because “she is fed up with the partisan bickering and gridlock in Springfield that results in nothing getting done for local residents.”
The businesswoman is dedicated to standing up for working families in Illinois. She supports a property tax freeze and is pushing to keep taxes at their current rates for the middle class. She also supports the hiring of additional police officers and improvements to local infrastructure to address local flooding issues.
Like McAuliffe, she looks to reduce airplane noise at O’Hare. She is pushing to increase the areas that qualify for airport noise abatement insulation and windows.
However, Marwig differs from McAuliffe on some fundamental issues. She supports a woman’s right to choose, while McAuliffe doesn’t, even in cases of rape and incest. The candidates are also divided on requiring insurance companies to cover birth control and funding for women’s health services, things McAuliffe has opposed.
The Democrat also opposes some of McAuliffe’s stances on gun control. Marwig's campaign noted that he didn’t vote to ban assault weapons and voted to allow people to carry loaded guns near playgrounds, day cares, parks, public libraries and mass transit, points the two candidates differ on.