Democratic candidate for state representative pushes for bipartisan collaboration

By Dan Doren, News Reporter

Paul Stoddard, a DeKalb County Board member running for state representative of the 70th Illinois House district in 2020, had his campaign kick-off event 5:30 p.m. Thursday at 720 Somonauk Street in Sycamore. There, Stoddard gave a speech on his reasons for running and the reforms he would fight for in Springfield.

Stoddard won the Democratic nomination for state representative in 2018, ultimately losing in the general election to incumbent Republican Jeff Keicher by 1,456 votes. The 70th district comprises portions of Boone, DeKalb and Kane counties.

“I’m running because — and it’s the same reason I ran last time — I really don’t like the way we do politics,” Stoddard said in his speech. “We’ve gotten into such a partisan, polarized system, we don’t listen to each other anymore.”

Stoddard said in an interview his willingness to give others across the aisle a voice is reflected in his time spent on the county board, where he proposed dividing up committee leadership based on the ratio of party representation. So, at a time when Democrats had a 13-to-11 majority over Republicans, the Democrats took control of four committees while the Republicans took three.

“I want to bring that type of thinking down to Springfield,” he said. “I’d like to see us get past partisan bickering and move to actually working for solutions for everybody in the area.”

Stoddard’s theme of moving past partisanship to accomplish more in the House was echoed by Randi Olson, Cortland resident and campaign manager for Stoddard, who said “Paul has a proven history of working across the aisle with everybody.”

Other issues given attention in Stoddard’s speech were affordable health care, public education and the Illinois Fair Tax amendment, a measure that would alter the state constitution to allow a graduated income tax to be implemented. The General Assembly approved the proposed amendment in May, and Illinois voters will decide its fate in a November 2020 referendum.

Stoddard spoke favorably of a government-run health insurance program that would serve as an alternative to private insurance, citing it as one of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s goals.

“One of the things [Pritzker] was not able to get to his first session was a public option in health care,” said Stoddard.

He also said the public option would be a first step in moving toward a Medicare-for-All system, acknowledging that it would likely be a long process and there are people who need to be covered as quickly as possible.

“Medicare for All, if that’s what you’re into, may take a long time to achieve at the national level,” he said. “And while we’re working towards that, there are a lot of people who are going to fall through the cracks. So, we need to be taking steps now to make sure that we catch as many of those people as we possibly can.”

On the issue of funding education in Illinois, Stoddard said one of the most common complaints he gets from local residents is property taxes are too high. Public education in Illinois is funded primarily by local governments through property taxes, and their rise has been attributed to pension costs.

He said funding education this way leads to inequity: “Poor districts are going to have poorly funded schools, which generally means they’re going to have poor schools. You’re not going to be able to break cycles of poverty if those who are living in low economic circumstances don’t have good educational opportunities.”

Stoddard said to combat this issue, the state needs to take the lead in funding public education, adding that, “if individual districts want to do fancy things, that’s up to them to fund on their own.”

Stoddard also spoke in support of a fair tax in Illinois, citing Pritzker’s proposal to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year.

“They’re the people who can most well afford it,” he said. “They’re also the people who benefit most by all that the state of Illinois has to offer, so it’s only fair that we ask them to pay for their share in this.”

He also said in an interview he fears there is a decent percentage of Illinoisans who might be unwilling to vote for a graduated income tax in November 2020, as he feels attacks on the proposal so far have been unfair. Still, he holds that it is “an essential thing to fight for.”

Stoddard favors a system where those making less than $50,000 a year would pay less than the current rate and those making more than $150,000 a year would pay more, while everyone else would be paying the current rate of 4.95%, according to his website.

Speeches were also delivered prior to Stoddard’s at the event by Democratic State Central Committeeman Peter Janko, and by Rick Turner, Sycamore resident and local attorney.

Turner, who co-hosted the event with his wife Anita and neighbors Pat and Steve Faivre, said he’s impressed with Stoddard’s methodical approach to problem-solving, a quality he believes comes from Stoddard’s background in teaching science at NIU.

“I knew Paul when he was still teaching at Northern, when he was in the Department of Geology [and Environmental Geosciences],” Turner said. “And I just liked the fact that he became involved in politics, because he had a concern about local issues and things that are going on.”

Before and after the speeches were given, attendees moved about freely and conversed in groups while enjoying the provided refreshments. Sycamore-based cover band Six-Pack performed a live set consisting of past decades’ hits, such as Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny” and Blondie’s “One Way or Another.”