State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, faces Libertarian Chad Grimm in the race for the 92nd District House seat.
No Republicans are running for election from the district that covers the city of Peoria south of War Memorial Drive, as well as Peoria Heights, Bartonville, and Bellevue.
Gordon-Booth has run unopposed since 2010, when she defeated Republican Jim Montelongo. Grimm filed to run against her in 2012, but was struck off the ballot. He later ran as the Libertarian candidate for governor in 2014.
The candidates recently participated in a forum hosted by the Peoria NAACP Branch.
Criminal justice reform
Both candidates say they support the expungements enacted last year through marijuana legalization, but both also see room for more changes.
Up to 700,000 low-level marijuana convictions can be wiped clean from criminal records under the recreational cannabis legalization package. The records can serve as an impediment toward seeking employment.
Gordon-Booth was one of the key lawmakers who ushered the measure through the legislation. She said while thousands already have benefited from expungements, she wants to make the process easier.
"The Clean Slate Bill that I've been working on for the past two years would create a process where we can automatically create an algorithm to automatically expunge peoples' records so that people don't have to go in and incur significant legal fees or go through the court process," she said.
Gordon-Booth's office has cleared low-level criminal records for more than 1,000 people through the "expungement summits" she's hosted the past few years. She said she's working with Peoria County State's Attorney Jodi Hoos to simplify the expungement process locally.
Libertarian Grimm said he would go even further.
"If drug abuse is a health issue, why are we stopping at marijuana? I think all drug charges--all non-violent charges, as a matter of fact, should be able to have full expungement," he said.
Grimm said he believes expungements for all "victimless crimes" are a vital component of true criminal justice reform.
Progressive income tax amendment
Grimm thinksthe progressive income tax amendment championed by Gov. JB Pritzker would harm the state's business climate.
If approved by at least 60 percent of voters on Nov. 3, the state would switch from a flat income tax rate to multiple brackets based on income levels, with higher earners paying more.
Grimm, an insurance agent in Peoria, said the tax change would impact small businesses like his.
"Your average small business will bring in more than $250,000 or $300,000 a year. And the average person that is not a small business owner, or doesn't directly work for one, would have a hard time understanding that," Grimm said. "But as a small business owner, I can tell you that the taxation that bears on us will just be returned to the public and inflate the costs of goods for everybody, and it's going to increase the mass exodus in this state."
Gordon-Booth said she supports the progressive income tax amendment. She voted in Springfield to put it on the ballot, and said she would vote yes on the issue.
She said fewer than 100 people in the 92nd District would see their taxes go up if the amendment is passed.
"It certainly helps to reduce the tax burden on middle-class families," Gordon-Booth said. "I think one of the things we're not talking about as a consequence of not passing the fair tax is right now, as a state, we are facing a multibillion dollar hole."
She said it's more humane to balance the budget by increasing taxes on higher earners, rather than making cuts that disproportionately impact the most vulnerable. She said the anti-progressive tax campaign backed by Republicans and business groups is "despicable" and is lying about several facets of the amendment.
Gordon-Booth asked voters to consider who their representative leverages their power for, and what they do with it.
Gordon-Booth, the assistant majority leader in the Illinois House, said she works hand-in-hand with state Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, who serves in a leadership role in the upper chamber. She said he's been a partner in her efforts to improve quality of life for the Black community.
"Remember who's there. Not just during election time, when they have clips and memes they want to post, but remember who is there fighting for you when no one else is watching, when no one else is paying attention, and they're not actually on the ballot," she said.
Grimm encouraged people to reach out to him on social media. He also said he believes the state of Illinois can solve its state worker pension deficit by selling them to the private sector.
He also suggested the state could make public education more efficient by dissolving school districts and adopting a statewide organizational framework like Hawaii. He suggested funding schools through sales taxes. Illinois schools are currently funded mainly through local property taxes.
"Those are just the things that need to be examined and need to be talked about in much more depth," Grimm said.
The election is Nov. 3.
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