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Column

No candidate rises to top in race for 76th House

Shaw Media Endorsement

Entering the election season, the 76th District State House seat was coveted highly by both parties.

When longtime Democrat Frank Mautino resigned in 2015 after serving two decades as state representative to become auditor general, the district, which both candidates agree splits down the middle, turned into a battleground for the parties, with each spending more than a million dollars in campaigning.

What’s at stake for the power brokers in Chicago and Springfield is whether the Democrats gain four seats for a supermajority.

Democrat Lance Yednock, a business representative for Local 150, is running against incumbent Republican Jerry Long, a former union truck driver.

There was a flashpoint in this narrative, however.

Following an investigation into a harassment complaint last month, the House Republican Organization withdrew its support from Long’s campaign and asked him to resign. Long refused, denying any wrongdoing.

Although the state party will not share a report of its investigation that involved interviews with Long’s staff, a spokeswoman for the state’s party said a witness corroborated with complaints made against Long.

Perceived to have been an ally of Gov. Bruce Rauner when funding was flowing, Long has called the investigation a plot by the state GOP to remove him from office, because he became too contentious internally.

What we know is Long has admitted to touching a staff member on her neck, acknowledging he could feel her stress. He has said it was no more than like touching a co-worker on the shoulder. He’s also said contact wasn’t common in their working relationship.

Touching an employee in this manner is not OK, especially if a co-worker objects to it. Long should have admitted wrongdoing and apologized immediately. He issued an apology, but only two weeks after the incident, and has continued to call the allegations false.

While we are working with limited information on this investigation, Long could have handled this incident with more respect for his staffer. It also doesn’t add up for the state GOP to walk away from Long in a highly coveted race after already investing more than $50,000, especially when his votes have been in-line with the party.

In the aftermath of the incident, Long has branded himself as an independent against tax increases, including a progressive tax, and believes the economy will grow once the state removes barriers, such as over regulation. He’s tried to pass bills that would ease school districts from having to follow unfunded mandates. He’s also against raising the minimum wage and legalizing recreational marijuana.

His opponent Yednock is calling for middle-class tax reform in the shape of a progressive tax that asks millionaires and billionaires to pay more. He also wants a property tax freeze. He favors term limits across the board and is undecided on legalizing recreational marijuana.

Regarding his current position as a business representative for Operating Engineers Local 150, he’s uncertain whether he would end his job, if elected. He said it would be a conversation he would have with his fellow union members after the election, but this should be decided before Election Day.

While the area has a strong union population, the district needs to know if Yednock will represent the entire district, and not just union interests. Though he took a moderate tone during the interview with our editorial board, it’s difficult to feel comfortable with him as anything other than a hand-picked establishment candidate.

Yednock avoided answering directly whether he supports Michael Madigan as speaker. Yednock said he will vote for any bill if it’s best for the district, even if it means disagreeing with his party, but the fact Yednock had to tiptoe around his answer on voting for Madigan for speaker of the House is a sign of the control Madigan has.

We respect both candidates for running, but we believe each has shown qualities that are not in the best interest of our district.

We cannot in good conscience endorse Long with the allegations against him. Long has been disavowed by his party; if elected, he will be an ineffective representative.

However, Yednock does not match with the values we generally look for in candidates nor does he have a track record that would add more perspective that might make us consider a broader range of issues. Yednock will support a continuation of the policies that are driving the state closer and closer to financial ruin.

We give no endorsement.

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