Time running out to represent the West Side in the Illinois House

April 9, 2010
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If you’re looking for a job, older than 21, love making frequent trips to Springfield, have lived in the state’s 78th House District for at least two years and are willing to vote the way House Speaker Michael Madigan tells you to, then you might want to apply for Deborah Graham’s old state rep seat.

Graham resigned from the position last month when Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed her as alderman of the 29th Ward.

Democratic Party committeemen have put out an open call for applications to find a replacement. Applicants have until 5 p.m. today to apply; applications can be found on the Oak Park Democratic Party’s Web site.

According to state law, Democratic Party committeemen from various city wards and suburban townships will form a committee to determine Graham’s replacement, and each committeeman receives a weighted vote based on Democratic voter turnout in the 2008 general election.

State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), who is the committeemen for Oak Park Township, is leading the committee responsible for appointing Graham’s replacement. He says he based the selection process off of a similar one used by the state Democratic Central Committee when it searched for a new nominee for lieutenant governor after Scott Lee Cohen withdrew from the race.

“I think folks are just weary of politicians and of government,” Harmon said. “That’s horribly unfortunate. We’re trying things we’ve done in Springfield to try and restore trust in government and trust in politics, and it’s a long road.”

In addition to the age and residency requirements, applicants must have cast a Democratic ballot in this year’s primary election. Applicants also have to fill out a lengthy questionnaire that includes questions like:

1) What, if any, suggestions do you have to fill the $12 billion budget deficit?

2) Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor? Yes/No. If so, please explain.

3) Have you ever or do you currently have an abuse problem involving alcohol, prescription medications, illegal drugs, or inhalants? Yes/No If so, did you or have you sought treatment? Yes/No.

4) Have you ever voted in the primary election of any party other than the Democratic Party? Yes/No. If so, in which year or years? Why?

Harmon said the names of all the applicants will be posted on the Oak Park Democratic Party Web site on April 12. According to the application, public hearings for the candidates to make their pitches to committeemen will be held on April 17 and April 24.

But the application states, “Committee members reserve the right to determine which candidates will be asked to present their credentials in person at a public hearing. Applicants are encouraged to speak directly with all committee members before the scheduled hearings.”

The other committeemen who will vote on Graham’s replacement are former 36th Ward Ald. William J.P. Banks, Tom Cargie, 37th Ward Ald. Emma Mitts, 28th Ward Ald. Ed Smith, 7th District state Rep. Karen Yarbrough and Graham.

Rev. Marshall Hatch, pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, says he plans on submitting his application before the deadline. Hatch, who also applied to replace 29th Ward Ald. Ike Carothers, says he hopes open calls for application will become the norm.

“Progressive change is slowly coming into Illinois politics,” he said. “People’s expectations are requiring there be openness and transparency in theses situations. They don’t come often.”

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