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State Senate: 2 Democrats think they can conquer GOP in 25th District

Updated: February 23, 2012 1:45PM

In suburban Chicago, no part of the political map has the same intense Republican tilt as the 25th Senate District, which covers western DuPage, eastern Kane and northeastern Kendall counties.

That’s good if you’re a Republican, but not so much so if you’re a Democrat.

Those are the political realities confronting Democrats Corinne M. Pierog, of St. Charles, and Steven L. Hunter, of Geneva, who are squaring off for the right to be on the ballot against one of three Republicans this fall.

The Fox Valley district swung Republican Bill Brady’s way by 23 percentage points in the 2010 gubernatorial election won by Gov. Pat Quinn. The margin was even greater for Republican Mark Kirk, who defeated Democrat Alexi Giannoulias by 27 percentage points in the district to win the U.S. Senate race.

The contest between Pierog, a business consultant, and Hunter, a Navy veteran who now works for AT&T in network operations, pits two relative political newcomers against each other, though Pierog gets the edge on experience.

Elected in 2009, she is in the third year of a four-year term on the St. Charles Unit School District 303 school board. She describes herself as a lifelong Democrat who is undaunted by the GOP dominance of the region.

Actually, she thinks Democrats could be in a good position if perennial candidate Jim Oberweis wins the GOP nomination. He has lost five different elections since 2002.

“There’s hope for a Democratic change here. I truly believe that,” she told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I’m a strong candidate to help advance that agenda with my time and my energy. It’s a passion of love.”

Pierog, who is supported by the Illinois Federation of Teachers and Planned Parenthood of Illinois, lists downtown redevelopment, transportation and education as her top priorities if she is chosen by voters to represent the district in Springfield.

Pierog questioned her opponent’s voting record, which had him pulling Republican ballots in four elections since 2006. The most recent was the 2010 primary, voting records from the Kane County clerk’s office confirm.

“He should own up to the fact for the last six years, he’s voted Republican in every Republican primary,” she said. “What bothers me is if he’s hiding that, I hope he’s not masking anything else. That concerns me.”

Hunter defended his Republican primary votes.

“The district itself leans heavily Republican. If a Democrat runs, they’re unopposed in the primary. Rather than waste a vote, I voted in the primary where my vote would make a difference,” Hunter said. “I wasn’t involved in the party until last year. I did my civic duty and voted in every contested election I possibly could.”

Despite questions about his partisan stripes, Hunter has strong union credentials, serving as union steward for IBEW Local 21. That background helped him secure one of the bigger endorsements either candidate has gotten: backing from the Illinois AFL-CIO.

Hunter describes protecting pensions and workers’ rights as top priorities if he is elected to the Senate.

“I’ve seen the attacks going on against the employees, the workers in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana. And I want to make sure that doesn’t happen here in Illinois at the state level,” Hunter said.

On the issues, there are not big differences. Both candidates agree to allowing certain Illinoisans to carry concealed weapons, legalizing gay marriages and expanding gambling to permit a Chicago casino.

They oppose establishing a three-tier pension system that would lessen retirement benefits for existing state workers and teachers.

Pierog favors letting the January 2011 income tax increase expire in 2014, but Hunter said that question will depend on “how successful the General Assembly is in 2013 at righting the ship.”

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