Edwardsville, IL – The Metro-East delegation in the Illinois Legislature has a strongly Democratic, labor-supporting look – with one glaring exception, the 112th House District, centered around Edwardsville, the Madison County seat.
That district is represented by Republican businessman Dwight Kay, who has proven to be hard-working and dedicated – but mainly in his opposition to workers’ interests and his support for the efforts of Gov. Bruce Rauner to destroy unions.
In the 2014 election, educator Cullen Cullen worked hard to oust Kay but fell short in a Republican year. In the 2016 election, Kay is being challenged by another educator, Katie Stuart, a math teacher at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Stuart has been a frequent visitor to union meetings in recent weeks, was endorsed by the Illinois AFL-CIO, and on Thursday, Feb. 11, she made her formal announcement of candidacy at the courthouse in Edwardsville before a boisterous crowd of supporters.
Many of the county’s labor leaders were in attendance, including B. Dean Webb, president of the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor; and Dale Stewart, executive secretary-treasurer of the Southwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council, plus members from both groups.
Stuart taught in middle school and high school before joining SIUE. Her husband Steve is principal of Lincoln Middle School in Edwardsville, and they have two children. She presents herself as a political outsider who has a keen interest in working families.
“As I’ve walked door to door, talking to hundreds of local residents, I continue to hear the same concerns from families frustrated by the political gridlock in Springfield – and empty promises from politicians, like Dwight Kay, who are hurting our communities,” she said.
“We deserve an advocate who will fight for families – an advocate who will stand up against politicians who want to continue to shrink the middle class and destroy vital programs we rely on, such as public education, higher education, medical care for elderly residents, breast cancer screening and services for victims of domestic violence and child abuse," Stuart said.
Webb said he has been impressed by Stuart’s determination and willingness to work for the Democratic nomination.
“I think she’s great – a real breath of fresh air,” he said. “She’ll do a great job. Dwight Kay is no friend of labor, that’s for sure. He’s one of Rauner’s cronies.”
In an interview with the Labor Tribune, she said she wants to help state politicians regain the ability to cooperate.
“Just like a lot of people I’ve spoken to, I’m very frustrated with the gridlock in Springfield,” she said. “I think politicians need to be willing to work together to come up with positive solutions to problems – everyone, from both sides of the aisle.
She said she would not be deterred by the current environment.
“All I can do is reach out to people and share my ideas and be willing to listen to theirs,” she said.
On issues, Stuart noted that:
Education – She supports the state education budget that Kay opposed; it would increase funding for local schools. She also supports a bill to limit the amount of money going to Chicago to assure more state funding for schools in this region.
Development – She would focus on economic development and work to help bring the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to the proposed site in neighboring St. Clair County.
Budget – She pledges to review the budget line by line to eliminate waste while protecting services including those for children, students, the disabled and senior citizens.
“Dwight Kay was elected to represent our families in Springfield, but he has failed to support property tax relief, failed to support more money for our schools and failed to protect the medical care services of the elderly – dozens of times not even bothering to cast a vote,” she said in her announcement of candidacy. “Taxpayers have been wasting their money on the salary of a politician who can’t be bothered to do his job.
"Elected officials should dedicate themselves to public service, not insider politicians," Stuart said. "That’s why I vow to be a full-time state representative. I will work every day for the families in our communities.”