Walsh Jr., Alm face off for 86th House seat
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org November 2, 2012 6:50PM
Larry Walsh Jr.
98th House District
This fiercely fought campaign features two first-time legislative candidates.
Natalie Manley, a certified public accountant from Joliet is the Democratic candidate.
Robert Kalnicky, a Bolingbrook Republican who is the executive director of the Community Service Council of Northern Will County, is the Republican.
The crossfire in political advertising has focused on two topics, neither of which is directly relevant to state legislative issues. Manley was arrested in May on a domestic battery charge involving her 21-year-old daughter. The case was dismissed in August, but Kalnicky’s advertising mailers have been carrying Manley’s mug shot from the night of the arrest.
Manley’s advertising has been linking Kalnicky to right-wing efforts to change Social Security, an issue that is being fought in Congress but not in the Illinois Legislature.
Both candidates accuse each other of being unfair.
The race is hotly fought and heavily funded in part because there is enough party balance in the newly created 98th District to give both candidates a chance at winning.
Kalnicky has political experience as vice chairman of the DuPage Township Republican Organization. He has been elected to board the Fountaindale Public Library District and serves as vice president.
Manley has not held elected office before but has name recognition as a former talk radio show host on WJOL-AM. She is a senior staff accountant at the Joliet firm of Wermer, Rogers, Doran and Ruzon, where she has been employed since 1999.
District map: District runs from Bolingbrook on the north through parts of Romeoville and Plainfield into Crest Hill and a segment of Joliet.
Updated: December 5, 2012 6:16AM
This is the first time since 1990 that Jack McGuire won’t be on the ballot in the 86th House District.
McGuire held the seat for 21 before retiring in April, just a few weeks after winning the primary election and leaving Democrats to appoint his replacement, Larry Walsh Jr.
Now Walsh, son of Will County Executive Larry Walsh, faces his first election against Republican Ryan Alm. Whatever name recognition Walsh enjoys is likely to be enhanced by the heavily Democratic make-up of the 86th District, which takes in most of Joliet.
The Republican Party has been critical of Walsh’s appointment, saying it smacks of insider Democratic politics. The election will test whether voters in the district take the same exception. Or, it could be the start of Walsh Jr. following his father into a long political career.
“When a son follows his father into a business, whether it be a doctor, banker or farmer, nothing is said,” Walsh said. He views himself as having followed his father into public service.
Raised on a farm, Walsh became a welder. He worked at the Caterpillar factory in Joliet for 14 years and then joined the Machinists union staff, where he is secretary-treasurer of District 8.
Alm has never held elected office and works as a paralegal. He points to a “breadth of experience” in past jobs. He has worked as a public employee in Lisle, a substitute teacher, and a floor supervisor at a call center.
“I really want to hold the line on government spending,” Alm said. “Along with that you have to maintain a balanced budget. I’d also like to ease taxes for our citizens.”
Alm could not name any spending cuts that he would support, saying he would have to view the budget more extensively. “I’m not one person who always says immediately cut, cut, cut,” he said.
Alm said he would support a repeal of the state tax income increase enacted in January 2011. If that does not happen, Alm said, he would vote in favor of allowing the tax increase to sunset as scheduled in mid-2015.
Walsh does not support a repeal of the tax increase, saying it would lead to a $2.6 billion shortfall in our budget.” His support for allowing the tax hike to sunset depends on where the state stands financially at the time.
Walsh stresses the state’s financial dilemma did not develop “overnight” and will take time to resolve. He also did not name specific spending cuts that he would support but said it’s very likely the legislature will be asked to approve spending cuts as high as 5 percent across all state departments next year. “If we have to,” he said, “I could support that.”
The key to solving the state’s financial problems, Walsh said, is comprehensive pension reform. He supports a proposal pending in the Legislature that would use bond money borrowed off the pension fund to cover other expenses to pay down the state’s pension debt. Changes he supports include a cap on cost-of-living increases for state retirees at higher pension levels. He also favors higher contributions by state employees into the pension fund.
Alm supports the implementation of a 401(k) program for state workers, but said it should be an alternative program that employees can choose or reject.
“If they want to keep a traditional plan, they can keep a traditional plan,” he said.
Alm said he would also like to see a retirement system in which state employees could tap into Social Security.
At the local level, Alm said his biggest accomplishment so far has been standing up for Illinois Youth Center-Joliet employees as Gov. Pat Quinn tries to close down the facility.
He’s has stood with IYC-Joliet employees at an informational picket and said he was the only Republican to speak in support of the facility legislative hearing on its future. Noting he also went on the picket line with striking Caterpillar workers, Alm said it shows his independent streak.
Walsh said his biggest local accomplishment so far has been directing state transportation officials to the dangers at the Joliet intersection of Route 53 and Schweitzer Road, which was the site of a fatal accident this year and several other serious semitrailer vs. car collisions.
The state will install flashing red and yellow lights at the intersection to alert drivers to the stop and yield signs there.
District includes most of Joliet, stretches south past Elwood and southwest to Channahon.