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 5th District Illinois House race.
Incumbent Rep. Ken Dunkin will face Juliana Stratton in the March 15 Democratic primary for Dunkin’s Illinois House seat.
There are no Republicans on the ballot, so the Democratic primary will be a decisive election.
Dunkin was raised in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green Housing Development. He previously served as the director of the Robert Taylor Boys and Girls Club, managing over $2.5 million in program services.
The state representative also interned at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as with former Sen. Paul Simon.
Dunkin currently serves as a member of the Attorney Registration Disciplinary Commission, to which he was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court.
Dunkin assumed office as the 5th District’s Representative in the Illinois House in 2002. As a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, Dunkin has served as a member of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus as well as on a handful of committees, including the International Trade & Commerce committee.
Dunkin broke up the Democratic super-majority in the Illinois House of Representatives last year, siding with Gov. Bruce Rauner on certain state budget issues.
Dunkin has come under fire from fellow Democrats after holding out on two bills that could have nullified changes Rauner made to social service programs.
Dunkin also received a $500,000 campaign donation from the Illinois Opportunity Project earlier this year. The group was co-founded by former Republican gubernatorial candidate and conservative radio host Dan Proft.
Dunkin made headlines after Rauner's State of the State address earlier this year when he came to a news conference with a backpack and sleeping bag promising to camp out at House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office until the state’s budget stalemate was resolved.
Many view the 5th District Illinois House race as a proxy battle between Rauner and Madigan. Although Dunkin is a Democrat, he has received substantial donations from Republican backers, while Stratton has received support and donations from powerful Illinois democrats.
Stratton served as an associate at Monahan & Cohen from 1991 to 1994. She dealt in juvenile, probate and special education law.
She then founded JDS Mediation Services, Inc. in 1995. She still serves as president of the consulting group that provides mediation services.
Stratton has also served as an adjunct professor at Loyola University Chicago teaching conflict management, negotiation skills and mediation skills. She taught at the university from 2002 to 2004 and more recently from 2009 to present.
From 2005 to 2011, she held the position of deputy hearing commissioner at the City of Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection.
Stratton was also an administrative law judge for the City of Chicago’s Office of Administrative Hearings from 2006 to 2011.
From 2011 to 2014, she served as executive director of the Cook County Justice Advisory Council.
Stratton also served as the executive director for Cook County Justice for Children from 2014 to 2015.
Stratton currently serves as the director for the Center for Public Safety and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Last month, Stratton was endorsed by Secretary of State Jesse White, Chicago Teacher’s Union President Karen Lewis, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Father Michael Pfleger, among others.