In a political rarity, the race for the 52nd House District is a two-party race with a third-party candidate.
Republican candidate David McSweeney won a three-way March primary to get on the Nov. 6 ballot. But instead of running unopposed – the Democratic Party did not run a candidate – he faces a challenge from independent candidate Dee Beaubien, the widow of former district Rep. Mark Beaubien.
Beaubien calls herself a social moderate compared with McSweeney who can reach across the aisle and break partisan gridlock in Springfield. But to McSweeney, Beaubien is not an independent, but dependent on campaign help and funding from powerful Democratic House speaker Michael Madigan.
Both say that they are the best person to represent the redrawn district in a time of state financial crisis.
Under post-census redistricting, the 52nd District’s boundaries shift south to cover southeastern McHenry County, including Cary and Fox River Grove, eastern Algonquin, Lake in the Hills and Crystal Lake, as well as parts of Lake, Cook and Kane counties. The new maps, drawn by state Democrats, split Crystal Lake among three House and three Senate districts.
McSweeney and Beaubien both said they will fight to repeal the historic 2011 state income tax increase of 67 percent on individuals and 46 percent on businesses, and also will work to enact cuts to balance the state budget.
“The tax increases have hurt small businesses that are organized as limited partnerships and limited liability corporations. The state must focus on cutting spending,” McSweeney said.
Beaubien said the income tax increase and rising property taxes despite lower home values are the issues she hears the most about from voters. Should a repeal be unsuccessful, she said, lawmakers must keep their promise that the increase is temporary and allow it to start expiring as scheduled.
“People feel as though government only needs them to throw their hard-earned dollars down the black hole that is government spending,” Beaubien said.
Most of the revenue generated by the income tax increase has been swallowed by the state’s pension obligations. Both candidates support comprehensive reform to address the unfunded liability of $83 billion for the five state-run pension systems.
McSweeney, who called the crisis the result of legislators over-promising to special interests, said he supports efforts to reduce cost-of-living adjustments for existing employees and changing 401(k) plans going forward while protecting pension benefits accrued to date. Beaubien said the state’s solution must not only fix previous mistakes, but also lay the foundation for a stable future.
“When [lawmakers] initially could not meet the obligations to the funding of the pension system, they borrowed more money and put off the day of reckoning. These irresponsible acts have consequences and all parties will have to participate in order to get our fiscal house in order,” McSweeney said.
Both candidates said they will turn down their pension if elected, and fight to eliminate the pension system for state lawmakers altogether.
McSweeney and Beaubien also oppose the plan by Democratic leaders to shift responsibility for teacher pensions to local school districts.
“Even without these added costs, property taxes are skyrocketing, making it more difficult for families already struggling to get by,” Beaubien said. “We cannot simply turn to homeowners whenever government fails to balance its budgets.”
The candidates differed on the state’s plans to expand gambling. McSweeney opposes expanding gambling except for allowing slot machines at racetracks, where gambling is already allowed. Beaubien, on the other hand, is open to an expansion. She said the state is losing revenue to neighboring states with expanded gambling, such as Wisconsin.
In an interview with the Northwest Herald Editorial Board, Beaubien confirmed that her campaign has received financial assistance from Madigan. She said that it is “impossible to run as an independent in this state without getting some help from someone.”
She stressed that this does not mean she would be beholden to him, but would not say one way or the other whether she would vote for him for another term as House Speaker.
“The fact that Michael Madigan’s party has helped my campaign has nothing to do with my position on Michael Madigan,” she said.
Current 52nd District Rep. Kent Gaffney was appointed to fill out the remainder of Mark Beaubien’s term after his unexpected death in June 2011. He ran for a full two-year term, but McSweeney beat him and fellow GOP candidate Danielle Rowe.
The race is the only contested House race before McHenry County voters. Candidates in the four other House districts that include the county under the new maps are running unopposed, although 63rd District incumbent Jack Franks, D-Marengo, faces a write-in challenge from Hebron resident Joe Rosner.