Photo by Dermot Connolly
State Rep. Fran Hurley (D-35th) and state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th) are seen here at a Dunkin' Donuts at 6707 W. 111th St., in Worth, during their "Coffee and Conversation Marathon" on Saturday, where they met constituents at 26 coffee shops in the 35th District, which stretches from Chicago's Beverly neighborhood to Orland Park. Cunningham, whose district overlaps hers, is running unopposed in the Nov. 6 election, while Hurley is facing Republican Herb Hebein.
By Dermot Connolly
State Rep. Fran Hurley (D-35th), running for a fourth two-year term as a state legislator on Nov. 6, is opposed this time around by Republican challenger Herbert Hebein, a retired Chicago police officer who is new to the political arena.
Both candidates are longtime residents of Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood, where Hurley, who was first elected in 2012, got her start as an aide to Ald. Ginger Rugai (19th), and the current Ald. Matthew O'Shea. She is a graduate of Mother McAuley High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from St. Xavier University.
Most recently in Springfield, she was the chief House sponsor of Senate bills that expanded protections for people with disabilities and survivors of domestic abuse. In addition to being a full-time legislator, Hurley does volunteer work with Ronald McDonald House in Oak Lawn, the Y-Me softball tournament, and on the board of Illinois Special Olympics.
On Saturday, Hurley was joined by state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th) for a “coffee and conversation marathon,” in which they stopped at 26 coffee shops throughout her district, which stretches from Chicago’s Beverly and Mount Greenwood neighborhoods through Merrionette Park, Oak Lawn, Alsip, Worth, Palos Heights and Orland Park. Cunningham, who is running unopposed this year, represents a district that overlaps Hurley’s in many areas.
“We’re not going to solve all the world’s problems during events like this, but it is a good way to get out there and talk to as many as people as possible,” said Hurley.
At one stop at a restaurant in Palos Heights, a local resident asked Hurley and Cunningham “to do something about the cost of eldercare.”
The man, who declined to give his name, said he was struggling to pay for his mother’s care in an assisted living facility. The legislators agreed with his assertion that, “You have to run out of money” before getting help from the state.
Both she and Hebein stress the importance of reducing property taxes, which Hurley said is the main issue constituents raise with her on the campaign trail.
“Aside from those asking for help solving specific personal issues related to constituent services, they mainly just want us to do our jobs in Springfield, like getting a budget passed,” said Hurley on Saturday.
“I have voted 17 times for property tax freezes, and the Republicans never pass them even though the bills had the exact wording Gov. Rauner wanted,” said Hurley.
“I also voted for the school-funding bill passed earlier this year, which is supposed to help take the pressure off property taxes,” said Hurley, 58.
Hebein, 63, retired from the Chicago Police Department three years ago. He asserted that a Republican is needed to represent the district, because “my opponent will just do whatever House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd) says,”—a charge that Hurley vehemently denies.
“I am my own person. I don’t do what Madigan says. But that is the Republican rhetoric, blaming everything on Madigan,” said Hurley, who knows Hebein from the neighborhood. Their sons used to play baseball together in Mount Greenwood.
Hebein said he is “pro-life and pro-Second Amendment rights,” and accused Democrats like Hurley of trying to “tax us to pay for abortions” and take away the rights of gun-owners. He opposes limiting ownership of automatic weapons to those ages 21 and over, something Hurley supports, saying 18 should be the age limit,
“I believe in a woman’s right to choose, and access to healthcare. This is just more Republican rhetoric,” said Hurley. “I am not anti-gun. I have an FOID card and used to go target shooting,” she added. “I voted for sensible gun laws. One required a 72-hour waiting period, which Rauner signed, so it wasn’t one-sided.”
She said another bill she supported dealt with licensing fees for gun-dealers, which she contended were equivalent for hair salons.
Hebein said he sees no need to limit gun-ownership for anyone at least 18 years old. “You can carry one or not, whatever you want. That is my limitation.”
Hurley received a good reception on her coffee shop marathon on Saturday.
Among her biggest fans was Kyleigh Boyle, 7, who was waiting with her mother, Gloria, to meet Hurley at the Cacao Café, which also opened on Saturday at 9111 W. 151st St. in Orland Park.
Gloria Boyle said Kyleigh is very aware of the news, and asked, “Is she really a politician? We have to go meet her,” when she heard Hurley was coming. The beaming girl kept both Hurley and Cunningham smiling, and on their toes, with her questions throughout their visit.
The state representative said she is honored when girls look up to her as someone to emulate.
“We need more of us in Springfield,” she said, hoping some with follow in her footsteps.
“We weren’t met with big crowds everywhere we went. But the coffee marathon was fun. We do these types of events like this, and the monthly coffee and conversations, to show that we are accessible,” she said.
“I am not sure I will do another marathon though,” she added. “I think next time it will be a 5K,” she said, explaining a tentative plan to visit five “kitchens,” or local restaurants.