42nd District candidates spar over unions

Heading into the final week of the Illinois state primary, incumbent freshman 42nd District House Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) and challenger Adam Johnson are making a final push to define their opponent’s campaign.

Ives minces no words about how Johnson came to challenge her: public sector unions. Johnson is challenging Ives for the right to represent Wheaton, West Chicago and northern Naperville in the Illinois General Assembly.

“They found someone, and it happened to be him,” she said in a recent phone interview.

Also contacted by phone, Johnson acknowledged that he has received financial support from public sector unions, but strongly denies that he was influenced to run by anything other than a desire to serve.

He said the reason he’s opposing Ives is that numerous community members reached out to him to complain they weren’t satisfied with the job Ives has done in her first term.

Ives also charges Johnson with originally planning to run for a seat on the DuPage County Board but changing his mind after being approached by public sector unions. She says they were looking for someone to challenge her after a first term in which she gained a reputation as a strong fiscal conservative.

Johnson didn’t deny considering a run for County Board but rejected any suggestion that the unions had convinced him to take on Ives.

He also challenged Ive’s reputation as a fiscal watchdog, noting that she voted against legislation that would have frozen property taxes in areas where total equalized assessed valuation had declined.

“The property owners in the districts are burdened with high taxes,” Johnson said. “This was an opportunity to give them some relief.”

Ives responded that property taxes should be addressed at the local level. She said she voted against the proposal because it was impractical to hamstring local officials when they often had to deal with set labor contracts whose obligations had to be fulfilled.

Ives pointed to the $41,000 in campaign contributions from various unions representing public school teachers and noted that she had supported “real pension reform,” school choice and opposed the Democratic Party’s push for a progressive state income tax.

“They didn’t like that,” she said.

Ives questioned why the Illinois Political Action Committee for Education would donate $35,000 to Johnson when he was on record as opposing the progressive/gradual tax they supported.

Johnson responded that he remained firmly opposed to the progressive tax and made that position known to the unions that donated to his campaign, but promised them that, if elected, he would keep an “open door” to hear their concerns.

“They would support me because they think I’m more supportive of them than the current representative,” Johnson said. “She has no respect for them.”

But Ives maintains that Johnson’s loyalties are not with the everyday taxpayer.

“The contributions speak for themselves,” she said.