The Feb. 2, 2010, primary elections have taken on added significance for Cook County's LGBT community, as at least 15 openly gay and lesbian individuals are vying for various posts. Below are gay and lesbian candidates for office. ( Most of the candidates are in the Democratic party; Bob Mueller is a member of the Green Party. )
Race: Illinois State Representative ( 40th District )
Web site: DebMell.org
The skinny: Deb Mell started her first term making history as the first open lesbian in the Illinois General Assemblyand then did something historic in being the only representative to vote against impeachment of then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, her brother-in-law. ( She told Windy City Times, "The day I made that vote, the Rod I knew and the Rod they were talking about didn't match up," adding that people told her afterwards that they were happy she voted that way. ) A staunch advocate for marriage equality, Mell is locked in a contentious primary race with openly gay Joe Laiacona, marking the only race between two out candidates in the state.
Race: Illinois State Representative ( 40th District )
Web site: FriendsForJoeLaiacona.org
The skinny: A part-time instructor at Columbia College Chicago for almost 17 years, Laiacona told Windy City Times ( in an interview that ran Oct. 21 ) that he is a better candidate than incumbent Rep. Deb Mell because "I have 62 years of experience in living, I'm better educated, I solidly represent the middle-class people in my districtand I'm better able to speak on their behalf." Laiacona might be known to some in the LGBT community as "Jack Rinella," his pseudonym when he wrote "Leather Views" for Gay Chicago Magazine. Laiacona recently dropped a petition challenge against Mell, citing a lack of funds.
Race: Illinois State Senate ( 7th District )
Web site: JimMadigan.com
The skinny: This race is probably one of the most competitive in Illinois, as challenger Madigan is pitted against Democratic incumbent state Sen. Heather Steans, who recently introduced a marriage-equality measure. ( The primary winner would then compete against Republican Adam Robinson, who is for same-sex marriage. ) Madigan has spoken on a slew of issues ranging from women's equality to preventing video gambling in the district. A few weeks ago, the contest became even more contentious when Steans' husband, Leo Smith, confronted Madigan at a pro-Madigan rally in an Andersonville gay nightspot.
Linda J. Pauel
Race: Cook County Judge, Dolan vacancy
Web site: LindaJPauel.com
The skinny: A 1991 summa cum laude graduate of Chicago-Kent Law School, Pauel has been an attorney for the City of Chicago's Law Department since 1994. Among the organizations that have endorsed Pauel are the Victory Fund, AFL-CIO and the Cook County Democratic Party. In a recent interview with Windy City Times, Pauel commented, "It's important to the community to see that we are viable candidates and that we can win despite that fact that people know that we're gay." She was born in Jamaica to parents of mixed heritage ( Chinese, Jamaican and Dutch ) .
Race: 1st Appellate, South vacancy
Web site: www.SebastianPatti.com
The skinny: Patti, who is running against four other Democrats, became the first openly gay member of the Illinois Appellate Court when he was inducted Aug. 3. Patti ( who became Illinois' first openly gay appointed judge in 1996 ) is a director of the Alliance of Illinois Judges, which was formed by the Lesbian and Gay Judges of the Circuit Court of Cook County; the group hopes to be a resource for fellow judges and the legal community, and to be mentors for LGBT law students.
Race: 16th Circuit Court, Kane, "A" vacancy
Web site: JohnDaltonForJudge.com
The skinny: Daltonwho would be the first openly gay judge elected outside of Cook County if he prevailshas been an arbitration chairman for more than a decade and an attorney for more than 22 years. Dalton plans to fund his campaign without accepting donations from attorneysa rare position among Illinois judicial candidates. Also, Dalton is an active member of Elgin's First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ.
Race: Illinois State Representative ( 47th District )
Web site: VoteMueller.org
The skinny: Green Party candidate Mueller, 63, resides in Westmont and is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Back in 1997, Mueller and his lawyer, Fred Wellisch ( now a DePaul University professor ) , argued that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, leading to the filing of three U.S. Supreme Court petitions regarding LGBT families in 1999, 2001 and 2002; Ted Olson ( now representing plaintiffs in the current Prop 8 case in California ) was on the other side as solicitor general when the 2001 and 2002 petitions were signed.
Race: Illinois State Representative ( 13th District )
Web site: GregHarris.org
The skinny: Harris, who is openly HIV-positive as well as being openly gay, has represented his district ( which includes Uptown, Ravenswood, Lincoln Square, North Center and Bowmanville ) since being elected in 2006. Although his name has appeared most prominently in LGBT publications in connection with the issue of marriage equality ( introducing a civil-marriage bill ) , he is intimately involved with a host of other issues, such as the state budget, foreclosure mediation, children of incarcerated parents and insurance reform. He is currently running unopposed.
Race: Illinois State Representative ( 11th District )
Web site: VoteEdMullen.com
The skinny: This districtwhich includes parts of Lakeview, Lincoln Park and Ravenswoodis up for grabs because incumbent rep John Fritchey is running for a seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners. On his Web site, Mullen describes himself as "an independent and progressive Democrat" who strongly believes "in political reform, economic development, and social justice." Fun fact: Mullen is a founding member of the D.C. Cowboys, a gay country/western dance group that has appeared on America's Got Talent.
Race: Cook County Judge, Kelley vacancy
Web site: JoanneFehn.com
The skinny: Although she entered the race relatively late ( in August ) , Fehn has been making up for lost time with a slew of fundraisers and personal appearances, including hosting a Dec. 13 event at La Villa Restaurant, 3632 N. Pulaski, that benefited several organizations, including New Moms and Tabitha House. Fehn has practiced transactional law for 15 years, and counts lesbian state Rep. Deb Mell among her supporters.
Race: Metropolitan Water Reclamation District ( MWRD ) commissioner
Web site: ToddConnor.org
The skinny: A military veteran, Connor was commissioned as a U.S. Navy officer, quickly becoming lieutenant and serving two tours of duty. As a candidate, his platform includes competitive bidding; investing in a green infrastructure; and bringing transparency and accountability to the MWRD with an inspector general. Considering his background ( earning an MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business ) , it should surprise no one that Connor, 31, wants to bring more of a business perspective to the commission.
Race: Illinois State Representative ( 5th District )
Web site: PeopleForSchroeder.com
The skinny: Schroeder is another challenger who faces a strong opponent; this time it is incumbent Ken Dunkin ( who Schroeder calls "the ultimate Blagojevich enabler" on his Web site ) . Among the issues he supports are marriage equality, campaign-contribution limits and reproductive choice ( adding that he advocates "measures that will lower the number of abortions," such as "medically accurate sex education" ) .
Race: U.S. Senate
Web site: MeisterForSenate.com
The skinny: Being in a contest for Roland Burris' U.S. Senate seat ( and the one occupied by one-time U.S. Sen. Barack Obama ) , Meister finds himself in a battle with heavy-hitters such as current Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, former City of Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman and Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson. In an interview with Windy City Times that ran in the Sept. 16 issue, Meister said that he felt "almost compelled to jump into this race. There are a number of good people who could have run; unfortunately, they didn't."
Race: Cook, 9th Subcircuit, "A" vacancy
Web site: VoteTrew.com
The skinny: Trew, a graduate of Western Michigan University and Michigan State University College of Law, began her legal career as a criminal defense attorney in Detroit. In Illinois, she has devoted much of her life providing legal services to the poor in Cook County; she is the executive director of the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic. She ran for a judgeship more than a decade ago, and narrowly lost.
Race: Illinois State Representative ( 99th District )
Web site: KentDeLay.com
The skinny: This son of a retired state engineer is a survivor of two car accidents that have left him partially disabled. In addition, the candidatewho is running to represent Springfieldis a father of two children.
DeLay was listed on the hand-out at the Sidetrack gay candidate's night as being among the state's openly gay candidates for office. He did not attend the event.