from the Jeremy Karpen for 39th House District campaign
Candidates for the 39th State Representative District spoke at The Organization of Palmer Square's annual candidates’ forum tonight. The event was open to the public, and presented an opportunity for the candidates to interact with the community. The incumbent, Maria “Toni” Berrios, spoke for 5 minutes, and then left to campaign for her father, Democratic Chairperson Joe Berrios. She refused to take questions.
“Berrios was clearly recognizing she has major opposition this election,” says Kevin O’Connor, an audience member. “She used the word “green” dozens of times in her brief introduction.” But overall he thought her presentation was disappointing. “I wish she had spent more time talking about jobs or her agenda.”
Jeremy Karpen, her only general election opponent to date, spoke for 15 minutes, and had ample time in the Q&A to articulate his message of universal healthcare, affordable housing, and full funding for education and social services.
Mr. Karpen ran for the same office in 2008, taking 21% of the vote. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor, working as a therapist for troubled youth at a residential treatment center in Chicago. Mr. Karpen also volunteers his time as a Partner Abuse Intervention Facilitator at a local domestic violence agency.
“It was with a heavy heart that I watched as our representatives failed yet again to pass a just and balanced budget last year,” said Mr. Karpen. “In the middle of a recession, they threw our most vulnerable populations and those that directly serve them under the bus.”
The incumbent, Ms. Maria Antonia “Toni” Berrios, receives thousands of dollars every election cycle from casinos, race tracks, and gambling interests. Her father, Mr. Joseph Berrios, is simultaneously chair of the Cook County Democratic Party, Commissioner on the Cook County Board of Review, and a paid lobbyist for the Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association, one of the largest pro-gambling outfits in Illinois. Ms. Berrios sits on committees and votes on bills that potentially benefit her dad’s clients, including the recently passed Video Gaming Act.
Mr. Karpen finds Ms. Berrios’ personal connection to the gambling legislation particularly troubling. “It's highly unlikely that Ms. Berrios is going to provide the kind of independent and principled leadership people are looking for,” says Karpen.
Mr. Karpen argues that he’s not only independent and principled, but offers real solutions, and is willing to fight for them. He’s been an activist in the community, marching with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association last year during their attempt to secure funding for supportive housing. He collaborates with Chicago Single-Payer Action Network and Logan Square Neighbors for Peace and Justice on healthcare and human rights issues. And he’s a strong advocate for the income-property tax swap.
Karpen stated, “If you believe that healthcare, education, and housing are human rights then you should support my candidacy and support the Green Party.”
The Illinois Green Party received major party status after the 2006 election, in which Rich Whitney took 10.5% of the vote for Governor. Mr. Karpen is excited about the current campaign, and looks forward to growing the party, while giving voters an alternative to Springfield politics.
“The Organization of Palmer Square is always generous to candidates,” says Karpen. “And the response from people at the event has been overwhelmingly positive.”