2022 primary-election-1321269_1x

Gill, Dewar face off in 35th District Dem primary

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By Dermot Connolly

reporter 3 12 24 Mary Gill headshot

Mary Gill

Two residents of Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood are running in the Democratic primary for the 35th District seat in the Illinois House, which stretches from the South Side of Chicago to Orland Park.

Mary Gill, a lifelong district resident, was appointed last March to succeed Fran Hurley, who resigned to take a position with the Illinois Labor Relations Board. Gill, a former special-education teacher, was executive director of the Mount Greenwood Community and Business Association since it opened in 2013. A committee of Democratic officeholders chose her out of 16 candidates after two community forums.

Challenging her bid for election to the seat is David Dewar, the owner of a financial consulting firm who has portrayed “Patriotic Uncle Sam” in local Independence Day parades in Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park, Palos Heights and Palos Park for many years.

Both are highlighting their business experience as an asset in Springfield.

Herbert Hebien is running unopposed in the Republican primary, as he did in 2018, 2020 and 2022.

reporter 3 12 24 David Dewar

David Dewar

The diverse district they want to represent stretches from 83th and Bishop Street in Chicago, to 143rd Street and Wolf Road, taking in Alsip, Merrionette Park, Palos Park, Palos Heights, Orland Park and Worth, as well as Chicago neighborhoods of Brainerd, Beverly, Morgan Park and Mount Greenwood.

Dewar, 59, grew up in Calumet Park and moved to Mt. Greenwood 40 years ago. After a career in real estate investment properties and foreclosures in the 1980s, he became a mortgage and real estate broker, and later an insurance broker. Since 2010, he has been providing financial services and advice through his own company, Tax-Free Retirement Solutions.

He became an election judge and then ran for alderman in Chicago’s 19th Ward in 2019 and the Illinois House in the 38th District in 2022.

“My motto is ‘We the People, not We the Politicians,’” said Dewar. “I think both parties have let the people down. I am running as a JFK Democrat,” explaining that his policies are more aligned with John F. Kennedy’s in 1960.

“He was more conservative economically and socially than the current Democratic party,” said Dewar. “I want to bring back common-sense laws.”.

If elected, he said he would sponsor bills to end Illinois’ sanctuary state status for “illegal migrants,” and prevent non-citizens from becoming police officers “without proper vetting.”

He claims the migrant crisis is taking money from veterans’ programs.

“We just can’t afford it,” he said.

On the migrant issue, Gill said, “I am glad the state is stepping in. We have created a working group. We have to have a plan but this is really a federal issue.”

“I am not on that committee. But in general, I think it is important to support people who are already here,” said Gill.

She said police asked that non-citizens be allowed to join police departments.

Dewar wants to repeal at least part of the “Safe-T Act” that became state law last year. His change would eliminate “no-cash bail” for repeat offenders, and “reinstitute appropriate fines and penalties for egregious crimes and repeat offenders.”

He said detention hearings are not enough. “It is the discretion of the judge,” and blamed Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans for a “lack of enforcement.”

“It is just a mess,” said Dewar.

He also supports a “right to parent” petition drive to get a non-binding Illinois referendum on November ballots seeking parental notification for school-related issues involving gender-transitioning.

“I think what happened is there has been too much polarization of political parties. I can break down the barriers and focus on commonsense policies,” said Dewar.

“For years, (politicians) are only doing the agendas of the political parties, and not listening to the people. When I went out and got my signatures, I heard from people who are concerned with public safety, illegal immigration and obviously the economy,” said Dewar. “To paraphrase what JFK said, ‘let’s not seek the Republican policy or the Democratic policy, but the right policy.”.

The candidates are refraining from personal attacks. When asked what sets her apart from Dewar, Gill simply said, “My experience, and I am a Democrat.”

“I would like to revisit some aspects of the Safe-T Act, if possible,” she said. But when asked about a list that Dewar is circulating comparing their alleged differing opinions on various pieces of legislation, Gill suggested that voters research the bills and decide for themselves.

“I don’t think I was in Springfield for some of them,” she said. “A lot of it is propaganda.”

The lifelong 35th District resident graduated from Clissold Elementary School and then Mother McAuley High School in 1997. With a degree in education from St. Ambrose University, she taught at a school in Summit.

“I absolutely loved teaching,” said Gill. “I gave it up to work for the MGCBA and raise my family. I miss it, but I am in a different role now and can still help children and families.”

She and her husband, Dan, have three children: Ella, Luken, and Hagen.

“This is my first full session. I am focused on the committees I serve on–Mental Health and Addiction; Police and Fire; Public Utilities; Small Business, Tech Innovation; and Veterans’ Affairs,” said Gill. “Mostly, my job is to listen and learn from people.” said Gill, who is working on several bills based on constituent concerns.

After Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Brandon Johnson decided to remove resource officers from schools next year, she heard from staff and parents at Morgan Park High School who disagreed with the plan.

“They want their officer to stay. So, we created a bill to allow local school councils to decide if they want the officers to stay,” she said. “Local control is being taken away from the 39 high schools who wanted to keep the resource officers,” said Gill, a former member of the Chicago Agricultural High School LSC.

Another bill would provide funding for counseling for first responders and their spouses. A third one she is working on with state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th), would curtail fines and fees people often face when their cars are stolen and recovered.

“They feel like they are being victimized twice,” she said.

One more bill she is working on would make a new drug for Alzheimer’s disease available to people under 65. It currently is only available to people older than that.

“I have a lot of support for this bill,” she said, noting that many families deal with Alzheimer’s, citing her late uncle, Mike Cusack, who fell victim to Alzheimer’s at a young age. He also had Down syndrome and was one of the first athletes to compete in Special Olympics. She has continued her family’s tradition of volunteering for that organization, as well as other local non-profit organizations, such as the Ronald McDonald House at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn.

Dewar also is busy with volunteer work, including chairing Oak Lawn’s Hometown Heroes program, which will honor local military veterans with banners displayed around the village. A similar program is planned for the Palos Area Business Association, which he is also involved in.

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