House District 37 in Chicago’s southwest suburbs has been represented by a Republican for more than two decades. But this year, with an open seat – thanks to the retirement of state Rep. Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) – Democrats are setting their sights on a district that includes Mokena and New Lennox, and portions of Joliet, Orland Park, Tinley Park, Frankfort, Homer Glen and Lockport.
In their own ways, Republican Tim Ozinga and Democrat Michelle Fadeley are hoping to convince voters why they should be the area’s next representative, with Ozinga relying on his business experience and Fadeley highlighting her work as a community advocate.
Neither has run for legislative office before, but with less than a month until the Nov. 3 election, they’ve honed their message to voters, which they shared in separate interviews with The Daily Line.
Fadeley says the district’s top priority is clear: affordable health care. She says voters have shared stories of struggling to make ends meet as income gains are equaled by rising health care costs. Seniors on fixed incomes and others have faced difficulties as the cost of prescription drugs and overall health care continues to rise, and Fadeley says adding such increases are “not sustainable” for middle-class families. She says if she’s elected, she will focus on improving affordability for health care, including by reducing costs for emergency services and prescription drugs to mental health and disability services.
Ozinga, who was previously elected to be a commissioner of the Mokena park district, says voters he’s talked to have stressed two major issues: taxes and the future of Illinois. Citing his fourth-generation family business, Ozinga says he would take a long-term approach to fixing issues in Illinois. He said unlike public companies, which focus on their next quarter, he would focus on the “next generation.”
But Ozinga and Fadeley overlap on at least one issue: ethics reform.
“A lot of folks are sick and tired of the political gamesmanship in Illinois and some of the ethics and corruption issues that are coming up quite frequently,” said Ozinga, who says he hopes to “lend a hand” to address such issues.
Fadeley is more direct on the issue, saying she would introduce some of the “strongest ethics reform bills in the country.” Those would include establishing an inspector general who is “truly independent” of the General Assembly, requiring former lawmakers who are convicted of crimes to return taxpayer money, lobbying reforms including eliminating a “revolving door” provision and “banning” red light cameras “that so many politicians have profited off of,” she said.
Noting Fadeley’s remarks about ethics reform issues, Ozinga questioned whether she would be “beholden to the existing system in place.” He pointed to her campaign donations, which he said showed a significant amount deriving from the “special interest groups controlling Springfield.”
Fadeley, who has not received significant donations from political groups aligned with House Speaker Mike Madigan but has accepted money from Gov. JB Pritzker, said she’s “definitely not bought and paid for.”
She said Ozinga’s campaign contributions raised a “real concern” whether he’s running to represent people in the district or to help bolster his family business and their “corporate buddies.”
In terms of her background, Fadeley has experience in Springfield but not as an elected official. From 2016 to 2018, she was a volunteer and co-founder of ERA Illinois, which lobbied lawmakers to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. “I have the track record that shows that my entire life has been dedicated to making a difference for people,” she said. Today she works a global marketing manager.
Ozinga, who is a co-owner of Ozinga, a building material and bulk logistics business, is relying on his experience of creating jobs and economic development while focusing on “choosing solutions, not sides.”
“I think we know where the political partisanship has gotten us over the past 50 years in Illinois and it’s time to start getting to work to fixing our state,” he said.
Overall, both candidates are confident that they will come out ahead on Nov. 3. Fadeley cites the district’s demographic shifts in recent years as evidence that it’s become a “more purple leaning district” while Ozinga says his message has “really been resonating” with Republicans, Democrats and independents.
Tim Ozinga Michelle Fadeley
Raised: $96,552 $9,886
Spent: $75,446 $8,043
Cash on hand: $238,389 $9,143
*as of latest quarterly disclosure, which outlines activity between April 1 and June 30
Notable contributions since last quarterly filing to Ozinga:
- Midwest Marine Terminals, Inc – $11,600 contribution on 9/28
- Transport Cement LLC – $11,600 contribution on 9/28
- IL Road Builders PAC – $2,500 transfer in on 9/18
- Middle River Marine, LLC – $11,600 contribution on 8/28
- MTPIA Financial LLC – $11,600 contribution on 8/27
- Vote for Margo McDermed for IL House – $1,000 transfer in on 8/6
- Illinois Chamber PAC – $2,000 transfer in on 8/3
Notable contributions since last quarterly filing to Fadeley:
- JB for Governor – $25,000 transfer in on 9/18
- Friends of Natalie Manley – $1,000 transfer in on 9/12
- JB for Governor – $2,500 transfer in on 9/2
- Democratic Majority – $2,750 in-kind contribution on 9/1 for polling
- Heather Steans (state senator) – $2,500 contribution on 8/31
- Local 943 PAC – $5,000 transfer in on 7/20
Ozinga: National Rifle Association, National Federation for Independent Business-Illinois, Illinois Federation for Right to Life
Fadeley: U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, state House Assistant Majority Leader Natalie Manley, state Sen. Heather Steans, state Sen. Mike Hastings, state Rep. Larry Walsh Jr.