by JASON MEREL

Incumbent Mike Kelly and challenger Michael Rabbitt discussed their campaigns for the Illinois House District’s 15th race ahead of the June 28 Democratic primary election at a June 1 virtual forum sponsored by several local civic organizations.

Republican candidate Mark Albers also participated in the forum.

The Hollywood-North Park Community Association hosted the forum and each of the nominees made opening statements, answered questions from the panel, and delivered closing statements.

Kelly said he was a lifelong Mayfair resident, a Chicago firefighter for 18 years and the athletic director of Saint Edward School.

“MY ENTIRE life has been dedicated to public service, whether at the fire station or as a community volunteer. And so, when the vacant date came around, I decided to throw my hat in the ring. I and several other members of the community, including one of my opponents (Rabbitt), went through the Democratic nomination process and I’m proud to say that I was unanimously chosen to fill this position.” , said Kelly. “I have forged great relationships with other legislators and worked to pass legislation that increases funding for education, protects women’s right to choose, works to make health care affordable and provides more health care. money for affordable housing.”

RABBITT said he lives in Edgebrook and works at Argonne National Laboratory, where he leads a team that focuses on problem solving.

“For us in the 15th arrondissement, it’s not just our home, it’s our community, and that’s why I’ve dedicated more than 20 years to serving our community, co-founding and serving in leadership roles in several community organizations along the way,” Rabbitt said. “To address housing shortages in the Far Northwest, I co-founded a community organization to achieve historic victories in affordable housing.”
He was an early proponent of the mixed-use housing development at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy., which was a source of controversy several years ago before it was built.

“I’ve also been a leader in my church co-founding a racial and social justice ministry and serve on the steering committee of the Interfaith Coalition Against Racism,” Rabbitt said. “Doing this work, I’ve always challenged myself by asking myself, ‘What can I do to have an even bigger impact?'”

Albers said he lives in Morton Grove and has served on the parish council and the finance committee of the Catholic church he attends.

“I’m a past president of the Morton Grove Chamber of Commerce,” Albers said. “I am small business friendly and own my own small business. I will fully fund the police and I believe violent offenders should be jailed. I am for your family and I believe in school choice because your children are very important to you and me. I will not vote to raise taxes. I want you to keep what you earn. Illinois has a spending problem. Thus, I will represent you and your values. So please come vote for me and I’ll be on the November ballot. And one of those other two guys won’t.

Candidates were asked what policies they would bring to Springfield to address gun violence.

“We’ve seen the recent mass shootings in our country and it’s extremely disturbing,” Rabbitt said. “We need to approach this as a public health epidemic and my plan is to make sure that not only do we protect the gun laws that we have in Illinois – and we have some of the most strictest in the country, which is great – but we could do more. We need to consider that in Illinois you can still buy assault rifles, such as “AR-15″ style rifles, and we need to put an end to that. It is unacceptable.”

Rabbitt said other issues he would address are increased enforcement of revoked or expired firearms licenses and FOID violations.

KELLY said loopholes that allow guns to be brought into Illinois should be closed and sanity checks should be required for gun purchases.

“You should have to take some form of test,” he said. “And you would have to wait more than 10 minutes to get your weapon. So I’m all for common sense gun laws. I’m not against people having a gun to protect themselves. I am for that.

Albers said Illinois gun laws were already strict and positioned gun violence as a mental health issue and called for increased enforcement of existing laws.

“There’s a problem with guns that get into the hands of mentally deranged people. The gun itself doesn’t do anything. People do things to other people. So mental health, you know, is a crisis here. It needs to be addressed,” Albers said. “This state has some of the strongest laws in the country, and uh, what people do, these gangbangers and stuff, they don’t follow the laws as they are. are written, so we have to enforce the laws.”

On the issue of abortion, Kelly and Rabbitt said they were pro-choice, while Albers said he was pro-life.

A question submitted by a North Park resident asked how candidates would vote on House Bill 1727, the Bad Apples in Law Enforcement Accountability Act, which would change the qualified immunity of law enforcement officers and is currently in commission.

“Creating greater trust between communities and law enforcement is very important to improving arrest rates,” Rabbitt said. “It is very important for public safety. That’s why I’m very supportive of some of the reforms that have been passed and this one in particular, the end of immunity, is part of the progress we need to make to improve public safety and improve community confidence. between communities and law enforcement.

“This is an issue that needs to bring all stakeholders to the table,” Kelly said. “We need to get the state police, the sheriffs, the Chicago police, all these different community police officers, they need to be represented at the table, just like the community.”

Candidates were asked how their professional experience had prepared them for the position of representative.

“We get a call, we go, wherever we go,” Kelly said of his experience as a firefighter. “We work with people every day, from all walks of life.”

Albers said he is a professional negotiator.

“We have to negotiate to win and both parties have to leave feeling comfortable that they have done the right thing for everyone involved,” he said. “Being a Democrat or a Republican and standing on either side of the aisle isn’t really the best way to do business. We need to be on both sides of that aisle, working together for the common good of the people we represent.

Rabbitt said his career has been “all about solving problems, making organizations better, making organizations more efficient and effective.”

“This is exactly what we need in state government,” he said. “That’s exactly the type of experience you want to have in a state representative.”