Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham

Cunningham and Flowers post victories

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By Joe Boyle

During a campaign that focused on the economy, crime and abortion rights, southwest suburban voters appeared comfortable returning incumbents in two local races.

State Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th) defeated his Republican challenger, Christine Shanahan McGovern. With 98 percent of the suburban votes tabulated Tuesday night, unofficial totals showed Cunningham with a comfortable lead of 53.88% to McGovern’s 46.12%.

Cunningham collected 67.77% of the vote in Chicago, while McGovern had 52.33% of the city tally.

In another local election, state Rep. Mary Flowers (D-31st), who began her first term of office in January of 1985, returns for another term after defeating Republican Ken Yerkes, an Oak Lawn resident.

With 98% of the suburban votes recorded Tuesday night, Flowers has an unofficial total of 50.06% with Yerkes registering 49.9%. However, in the city wards, Flowers had 95.28% of the vote and Yerkes had 4.7% with 29 out of 30 precincts reporting.

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Mary Flowers

Cunningham was first elected to the state Senate in 2013 after serving two years as a state representative. This was the first time that McGovern was running for political office. She believed that Democrats were soft on crime and said that although Cunningham opposed the Illinois, Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today, or SAFE-T Act, he did not speak out on the law enough.

However, Cunningham insisted that was not true and said in an earlier interview that taking on crime and keeping constituents safe was his top priority.

“In order for us to thrive as a community, we need to feel safe where we live,” said Cunningham, a resident of Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood. “Getting our police officers the resources they need and passing legislation that makes it easier for them to address increasing crime are two of my top priorities in Springfield. Which is why I supported a budget that provided millions of dollars for law enforcement recruitment and training, including hiring 300 or more Illinois state troopers, the largest one-time investment in our state’s history.”

Cunningham had served as a chief of staff to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart before becoming an elected official. He also believes that a crackdown on carjackings is necessary.

The state senator said he is committed to bringing more jobs to Illinois. He added that he wants everyone to have a secure occupation with a living wage. He supports the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act for renewable energy businesses. The legislation will help Illinois on its path to reach 100% clean energy and will create jobs to benefit people in the 18th District now and in the future, he said.

He also supports a woman’s right to choose in regards to the abortion issue.

McGovern, 52, a resident of Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood, opposes abortion unless a woman’s life is in danger. She also opposed the SAFE-T Act and said it should be repealed.

“I believe that 100%,” McGovern previously said during the campaign. “There is no accountability for the criminals and this starts from the top down. The path towards removing guns from law-abiding citizens is unjust.”

Cunningham said that he supports the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act for renewable energy businesses that he said will create more jobs to benefit the people of the 18th District.

The state senator said during his next term he will continue to advocate for improved health care for seniors.

“Our seniors deserve consistent high-quality care and families deserve to know their loved ones are well taken care of,” Cunningham said. “Legislation I championed creates incentives for people to qualify as trained home care providers, makes home care more regulated, and reduces the overall cost of care for our seniors.”

The 18th District stretches roughly from Ashland Avenue in Chicago, west to Will-Cook Road, meandering from 83rd Street to 123rd Street. In addition to parts of Beverly and other Chicago neighborhoods, the boundaries encompass all or parts of Evergreen Park, Oak Lawn, Chicago Ridge, Worth, Palos Hills, Palos Park and Willow Springs. 

Flowers, 71, won this race despite the concern over the SAFE-T Act among many southwest suburban voters. She objected to criticism over the no-cash bail provision of the bill that begins on Jan. 1. Flowers said that in too many instances individuals have been incarcerated for longer periods while not officially charged with any crime.

Judges have had and will continue to have the right to keep violent criminals in jail, Flowers said.

“But what I don’t like is when people are implying that crime only occurs in the Black community,” Flowers said. “Crime is an issue everywhere.”

Flowers said one reason she won is that she supports better health care for women and children.

“Everybody wants access to health care, medical care and prescription drugs,” Flowers said. “We all want affordable prescriptions. We want our kids to have a good education. That’s the issue I have been fighting for.”

This was the first time Yerkes, who is a dentist with an office in Oak Lawn, was on the ballot for political office. He did run as a write-in candidate for the 3rd Congressional seat in 2018.

While Flowers supports the SAFE-T Act, Yerkes said it should be repealed, stating that it will allow violent criminals to be released after Jan. 1. He believes the law should be replaced and said it could be worked out.

Yerkes also opposed abortion and said tax dollars should not be spent for them.

Flowers said a woman’s right to choose is vital and was in disbelief when the U.S Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which ended the constitutional right to an abortion that been the law since 1973.

“Of course, I was surprised,” Flowers said about the ruling. “You wake up one morning and someone takes your rights away. I don’t think people understand is how many women die each year because of improper health care. The fact of the matter is it affects everyone and it’s about having access to the proper medical care.”

Flowers said that in her next term that she will continue to work on access to better education and jobs for her constituents. She has no intention of retiring, stating that her service “has now ceased being a job, it’s a calling. I have a passion for what I do.”

The 31st District extends as far east as the Dan Ryan Expressway and continues west through portions of Oak Lawn, Hickory Hills and Palos Hills, and as far north as Countryside.

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