Long-time lesbian activist Kelly Cassidy has been appointed to fill Illinois' 14th District state representative on Chicago's Far North Side. State Rep. Harry Osterman is leaving the post to assume assumes his 48th Ward aldermanic duties in May.
Another lesbian, Paula Basta, had been in consideration for the post, as was transgender activist Catherine Sikora, vice president of the board of Equality Illinois. There were more than 20 people positioning for the appointment.
Basta, regional director of the Levy Center, which serves seniors in Chicago, is not stopping her campaign, however; she announced she is running for the 14th District seat in the 2012 elections.
On May 16, Cassidy will join two other openly gay members of the state House: Rep. Greg Harris and Rep. Deborah Mell. Cassidy is currently director of programs and development as part of the Cook County State's Attorney's executive staff.
The replacement for a vacant post was decided by Democratic ward committeepersons in the area, after a lengthy public meeting April 16. Committeewoman and former state Sen. Carol Ronen had a large influence because of the location of her district within the state rep area.
"I am pleased that after reviewing credentials and hearing from 23 candidates the committeemen unanimously selected Kelly Cassidy to fill the seat vacated by Harry Osterman," Ronen said. "Kelly Cassidy has a set of unique credentials which will allow her to be a strong and effective progressive force in the Illinois House … she will hit the ground running on May 16."
"I am honored to have been selected from over 20 candidates to fill the vacancy left by Representative Harry Osterman's election as 48th ward alderman," Cassidy said. "The 14th District has an abundance of motivated and talented people who presented their credentials yesterday. I have nothing but respect for all of the candidates who made presentations and the nearly 200 people who came to see the presentations. I am thankful for the confidence placed in me by Committeewoman Carol Ronan, Committeman David Fagus and Committeeman Patrick O'Connor who made this decision after an open and fair process."
Paula Basta responded quickly with a press statement attacking both the process of Cassidy's selection, and Cassidy's clout. "Although I am respectful of the laws governing the appointment process for this vacancy, I believe the only true way to earn this seat is through the democratic process where the people get to choose who represents their voices," Basta said is a press statement. "That is why I am announcing without a doubt that I will run for this seat in 2012."
In what appears to be a direct shot at Cassidy, Basta claims she is "not a well-connected insider or connected to a deep-pocketed political machine. I plan to walk each block, knock on every door and earn each vote from the neighbors and friends I have lived next door to and served for over 30 years."
"I am mindful that I will be representing one of the most diverse districts in the state and I plan to spend as much time as possible in the coming months meeting with residents so that they can share their concerns and ideas about our community," Cassidy said. "I look forward to the opportunity to work closely with all of the people of the 14th District as we work towards solutions to the fiscal challenges our state faces. Over the coming weeks as I prepare to take office, I hope to meet with as many people as possible to gather their thoughts and ideas on the needs of the district and solutions to the budget crisis. I am looking forward to working with Sen. Heather Steans, Rep. Greg Harris, Alderman-elect Osterman, Ald. O'Connor and Ald. Joe Moore to serve our constituents and to do everything we can to ensure the interests of the district are protected as much as we possibly can in the face of the looming budget cuts ahead."
"Kelly will make a great addition to the House of Representatives," said Rep. Harris. "I have known her for many years and have always been impressed by her commitment to LGBT rights, a woman's right to choose, and her neighborhood. She has a long track record of effective work in public policy advocacy, in government and community affairs. I think this is great because it will help her hit the ground running at a time when she will be called upon to help make some of the most dire and difficult choices in our state's history. I will be proud to serve with her!"
Rep. Mell also welcomed Cassidy's appointment. "I am thrilled to serve in the General Assembly with Kelly. She is more than qualified and a perfect fit for the 14th district," Mell said.
Long-time gay rights activist Rick Garcia send out a press release on the appointment. "It is telling that Kelly won a unanimous vote. She is imminently qualified to represent the district and she has an impeccable record on LGBT issues," Garcia said.
"There was an abundance of riches in this district, Garcia continued. "Trans rights activist Catherine Sikora has a rich and long history in the community as does Paula Basta. … The committeemen, and especially Committeewoman Carol Ronen, should be commended not only for the open process but for considering all the diversity of this district."
Garcia said in 1996 Cassidy ( who had a broken leg ) helped organize a lobby day at the Springfield capitol to oppose the legislative ban on same-sex marriage. "It was one of our largest lobby days and there was Kelly hobbling around in a foot cast and crutches," Garcia said. "That is a real commitment to fairness and equality. She will be a strong and effective advocate in Springfield."
"We are thrilled with this appointment. Kelly has the experience and intelligence to be an excellent state legislator," said Lowell Jaffe, political director of The Civil Rights Agenda. "The LGBTQ community has a new ally in the General Assembly, and I have no doubt that she will be able to make the difficult decisions that are facing our leaders and the state. Our legislative team is very much looking forward to working with her in her new role."