As one of three men and one woman competing for the 50th House District's GOP nomination to succeed State Rep. Pat Lindner, it’s sometimes difficult to draw a distinction among the candidates. Tony Graff says his voter base is his family, his friends and the people he’s met throughout the community while serving in area law enforcement.
A retired police chief and experienced city administrator, Graff, 53, says he’s very proud of being involved public service for years. Recently starting a commercial real estate development firm opened his eyes to the challenges small businessmen in Illinois face every year. It was one of the reasons he jumped into the 50th GOP race this year.
“I’m interested in helping people and getting involved in the community,” Graff said, “When Rep. Lindner retired, it seemed a good time to re-enter public service.”
And what would he do if he were elected to represent the Kane County-centered district?
“Honesty in government is crucial,” Graff said. “Public trust level is at its lowest, and the people are telling me they want to elect legislators they can trust. You do that one day at a time, one legislator at a time, earn the trust of the public.”
But Graff doesn’t hide the fact that improving the quality of education is also a major impetus for him running for the 50th House seat.
“We can’t settle for being 49th in the country for education funding ,” he said. “We should have consistent funding for the schools. Graff is supportive of school choice among private and public schools.
Schools are the center of the community, and what’s happening there affects families and affects the area’s quality of life, he said. “A better educated society is better for all of us."
Graff is also concered about the amount of unfunded mandates the state legislature sends to local fire departments, law enforcement and schools every year.
“There needs to be some type of balance and some kind of self-control. When January comes around, there’s new laws that have to be put in place," he said. "Studies should be done on the impact of state legislation – not just financial, but human impact, as well."
"Instead of just adding more laws, enforcing what’s already on the books would be helpful and make sense,” Graff said.
As a member of the Illinois Chief of Police’s legislative committee for ten years, Graff knows the importance of lawmakers conferring with law enforcement personnel as to a law's implementation. He hopes to be a good resource for fellow legislators.
And although a list of police chiefs statewide advocated drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants last year, the former Yorkville police chief disagreed with the effort.
“The operative word there is ‘illegal,’” he said. “If they’re illegal, they’re not eligible for licenses.”
Graff says he's open to Illinois making it legal for citizens to conceal and carry arms, but his support is qualified, depending on whether the proposal would provide the funding needed to appropriately oversee the distribution and follow-up of the permits, he said.
“I truly believe our system needs to be modified to ensure the death penalty process is credible,” but yes, he said, he is in favor of continuing the death penalty.
But in a four-way race, it comes back to differentiating oneself from the others in the race. Graff points to his experience in local government, his leadership has a police chief and city administrator and his track record of honest in government to make his case.
His life experiences of having three children in college and living out his Catholic faith by serving the community also points out differences.
“With all that, I still have worked within the means of a city budget and understand budgets and taxes,” he said. He’s very proud of the relationship he has with area elected officials and believes that will help him do his job well for the district.
“Someone said the other day that I was a little bit of all three of my opponents rolled into one,” he said. “I’ll use that description to describe this race. I hope the voters of the 50th District agree.”