Five running March 18 for chance to replace Kosel in state House
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org March 2, 2014 6:32PM
August Deuser | Supplied photo
Updated: April 4, 2014 6:15AM
With the retirement of veteran state Rep. Renee Kosel, R-New Lenox, five candidates hope to fill the vacancy she leaves after serving 18 years.
In the March 18 primary election, three Republicans are vying for the 37th House District seat, long held by their party — Margo McDermed, Gayla Smith and Arthur Lukowski. Democrats will choose between August (O’Neill) Deuser and Nichole Serbin.
The 37th District includes all or parts of Lockport, New Lenox, Mokena, Frankfort, Orland Park and a small portion of Tinley Park, as it extends as far north as 159th Street to Laraway Road on the south and from Farrell Road on the west to about 80th Avenue on the east.
All the candidates are political newcomers except McDermed, who was elected to the Will County Board in 2012 after serving as Frankfort Township clerk.
“I never want to back away from a challenge. I have to be part of the change that the state needs,” said McDermed, who is married to Ed Ronkowski, the Will County Republican chairman.
McDermed, a Mokena resident and mother of two adult children, said she is the only candidate with experience in public service and is determined to change the economic climate in the state by reducing the tax burden on residents and businesses.
“If businesses are not thriving, they cannot employ people. If there are no jobs, people will move out of Illinois,” she said, citing “burdensome” regulations on businesses and expensive worker compensation insurance.
Regarding education, McDermed said schools need “better ideas, not more money.” Students need FACT — flexibility, adaptability, creativity and technology, she said.
The state income tax increase from 3 percent to 5 percent approved in 2011 will roll back to 3.75 percent in January 2015 unless the General Assembly votes to keep it at 5 percent. McDermed said she would support rolling back the tax hike and imposing term limits on legislators.
“We don’t need career politicians. Eight years is enough,” she said.
More information on her candidacy is at www.margomcdermed.com.
Smith, a 28-year Frankfort resident, said the state needs “fresh new blood if it is to have any chance of reform. People are fed up with the elite political class that is more focused on winning than serving.”
Smith has been involved in political campaigns and said she now wants to “follow my passion and serve. You have to run with a servant’s heart.”
Reform is needed to make Illinois business-friendly, Smith said. She would reform worker compensation policies, which she said are fraught with fraud and exorbitant insurance rates, and reform the “pension boondoggle” by further changing the law and replacing traditional pensions with 401(k) plans, she said.
As the operations manager for a paving contractor, Smith said she sees the daily struggles of small-business owners and workers.
“Everything is so much more expensive in Illinois,” she said, adding that she would allow the income tax hike to roll back.
Illinois generates more revenue than its neighbors, but its problem is spending, Smith said, the mother of two adult children, with a son and son-in-law serving in the Navy.
More information about Smith and her views is at www.citizens4smith.com.
Lukowski, of Mokena, president of Oil Express, believes his 30-plus years of business experience and leadership roles with the Chicago Family Business Council and the Greater Southwest Developmental Corporation give him the skills needed to achieve statewide job growth.
“I have experience with business, budgeting, running programs and solving problems,” he said, explaining why he was seeking the House seat.
Businesses have to be able to expand to create jobs, but they cannot expand with unemployment compensation and other high costs placed on them, Lukowski said.
“If we can get people off welfare and back to work, we would be able to improve our situation, and that’s where education comes in,” he said. “Reading skills and problem-solving skills are down, and they don’t think it’s an issue.”
Educational standards need to be raised to help children become responsible, productive citizens, he said, and teachers also should be held to a higher standard and given raises based on performance, not on union contracts.
Regarding the higher income tax, Lukowski said “we need to bring the income tax to a low rate and keep it there.”
More information regarding Lukowski and his political positions is at arthurlukowski.org.
A retired special-education teacher, Deuser said he’s running for state representative because “I am sick of (House Speaker Mike) Madigan and (Gov. Pat) Quinn stealing our pension money. The budget is out of control, and we (Illinois) are last in (state) education spending. I’m tired of this nonsense.”
He would balance the budget by reducing all programs except those for education, veterans and mental health.
The Legislature needs to change its spending habits, Deuser said.
“You cannot spend what you do not have, and they (lawmakers) don’t always spend it on what is right,” he said.
Deuser would like to require math and science classes during all four years of high school, which would include computer technology, and reduce physical education requirements to two years instead of four.
To improve mental health, he wants to identify students earlier for learning disabilities and emotional problems.
Citing the high rate of homelessness among veterans, Deuser suggests using vacant schools to house vets.
He is a Lockport resident and the father of two sons.
“I’m a straight-shooter,” he said. “I’ve never been a guy to watch on the sidelines. I’m always in the game.”
Visit www.deuser.us for more information on his candidacy.
Serbin, of Mokena, owns a mobile disc jockey business and has also done stand-up political satire — until she realized that she was not able to laugh about it anymore. She said she has researched the state’s political issues for years and frequently wrote to her representatives.
“It got to the point where you either sit and criticize or do it yourself,” Serbin said, explaining why she jumped into the race before Kosel announced her retirement.
To boost the economy, Serbin would increase the minimum wage, reduce tax incentives to corporations and legalize marijuana.
“I know raising the minimum wage is scary for small-business owners, but people will have more to spend at small businesses,” she said.
She favors a progressive tax on business and would cut back on tax incentives for corporations.
“People do not realize how much we are paying for corporate welfare and tax incentives,” Serbin said. “If they’re (companies) going to get a tax break, they should be required to employ a certain number of people at a decent wage.”
By legalizing marijuana for recreational use, Illinois could tax and regulate its use — bringing in tens of millions in new revenue, creating new business and tourist opportunities and relieving overburdened courts and jails.
“This is such a logical step,” she said.
Serbin, whose stepson is a Marine, wants to provide more services for veterans by addressing their mental health issues, providing college credit for military skills and easing their transition to civilian life.
More information is at nicoleserbin.vpweb.com.