Uncontested races come with pros, cons
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org November 4, 2012 6:52PM
Updated: December 6, 2012 6:04AM
Some Southlanders who head to the polls Tuesday might be surprised to discover the ballot has four times as many choices listed for U.S. president as for the state Legislature.
While Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are joined on the ballot by Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein, many candidates out to represent area residents in Springfield are running unopposed.
Some say that’s the result of redistricting, with the latest legislative maps having been strategically drawn by state Democrats to discourage Republican challengers. Others said it means voters are satisfied with their current legislator.
Whether it makes voters themselves winners or losers is a matter of opinion.
“I really believe people must be satisfied with what I’ve been working on and how I’ve addressed their concerns,” said state Rep. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island), who has no foe in the “race” in the 28th District.
Countered Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), who will face write-in candidate Xavier Roman for the state Senate seat for the 17th District, “It’s good when there are contested races. It gives incumbents a chance to explain what they’ve done.”
In Cook and Will counties combined, there are 37 state Senate districts. More than half have only one candidate running. The all-but-automatic winners from Southland districts include Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) in the 41st District, and Napoleon Harris (D-Flossmoor) in the 15th District.
Voters will have a choice in the 18th Senate District between Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) and Barbara Ruth Bellar (R-Burr Ridge), the 19th District between Michael Hastings (D-Orland Hills) and Edgar Montalvo (R-Tinley Park), the 40th District between incumbent Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) and Joseph “Tuck” Marshall (R-Frankfort), and the 43rd District between Pat McGuire (D-Joliet) and Sandy Johnson (R-Manhattan).
The story is similar in races for state representative. About 70 seats are up in suburban Cook County and Will County, and only about a third are contested.
Southland candidates running for state representative who face no opposition include Al Riley (D-Olympia Fields) in the 38th District, Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights) in the 80th District, and Renee Kosel (R-New Lenox) in the 37th District.
Kosel, who had Democratic opponents in her last two campaigns, said the reason for all the uncontested races was that the new legislative map was redrawn by Democrats to be “as noncompetitive as possible.”
“We have got to change the way we redistrict,” she said. “Ideally, we should remap to make every district as competitive as possible.”
The public is best served by having competitive races, she said.
“When you know the district cannot be won, do you want to invest time and energy into it?” she said. “I can understand why people would say no. It’s not apathy, nor a lack of interest. If you know it’s not doable, why stress out doing it?”
The only two contested races for state representative in the Southland are in the 35th District, between Frances Ann Hurley (D-Chicago) and Ricardo Fernandez (R-Orland Park), and in the 36th District, featuring Kelly Burke (D-Evergreen Park) against Bob Shelstrom (R-Palos Park).