Pictured Terry Cosgrove and Jane Fonda at a Personal PAC benefit. Photo by Tracy Baim
With so much attention being focused on the U.S. presidential and senatorial elections, one might forget that many seats in the Illinois General Assembly are also being contested. Terry Cosgrove, openly gay president and CEO of the grassroots, pro-choice political organization known as Personal PAC, sat with Windy City Times and provided a look at what's happening around the state.
Windy City Times: I've been informed that the race with State Rep. Beth Coulson, R-Glenview, is pretty interesting.
Terry Cosgrove: This race is one of our top priorities. [Coulson] is 100 percent pro-choice and is one of our stars in the General Assembly. She's a moderate Republican. She's perfect on all issues that concern people who [value] civil liberties and human rights, including right to privacy and reproductive choice. She's a wonderful candidate. Beth is running against a newcomer named Michelle Bromberg, who's been doing a lot of negative campaigning. People who live out in Glenview and Skokie should support Beth; she keeps her [constituents] in mind.
WCT: Apparently the Aaron Schock-Ricca Slone race (in Peoria) has become very intriguing. What can you tell me about that one?
TC: Ricca Slone is the Democratic incumbent, supports House Bill 101, and is 100 percent pro-choice. [Note: House Bill 101 would recognize that all citizens of Illinois share the same fundamental rights and would protect the same basic rights for all citizens of Illinois whether they are heterosexual or gay.] Aaron Schock is about as right-wing as you can possibly get. He's attacking Rep. Slone on her record regarding abortion rights. He's even told the Illinois Leader that he's opposed to abortion even if the mother might drop dead as a result of her pregnancy. Ricca's been a wonderful leader on our issues; if [Schock] defeats her, it'll be a real blow to pro-choice advocates and to House Bill 101. He's even attacking her personal life.
WCT: What about other races of interest?
TC: Oh, yes! We're looking at the races involving Reps. Rosemary Mulligan, R-Des Plaines, and Mark Beaubien, R-Barrington, who are both sponsors of House Bill 101; so far, their opponents are not targeting them for their pro-choice stances.
There are four main House races in which we are involved. One involves Schock and Slone. Another involves State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Champaign, in District 103. Naomi is a strong supporter of choice; she has six adopted children. Her pro-choice statement is, 'Hello, my name is Naomi Jakobbsson, and I have six adopted children. I gave six women [choices]. Does anyone have any questions?' She's also a strong supporter of GLBT rights. I've known her for years and she's wonderful. It's great that she's in the General Assembly. She cares about people.
Another race [that we're looking at with interest] is with State Rep. Kathy Ryg, D-Vernon Hills. She [only] won by 107 votes last time. She's running very hard against her opponent, who we consider to be anti-choice because he didn't answer our questionnaire. On the cover letter of the questionnaire it states that if you don't return it, you're opposed to our issues.
The other really critical race involves Democrat Sharyn Elman, who's running against ⎞-year incumbent] Bob Churchill. Bob is very right-wing; he's 100% anti-choice. He voted for a bill that would allow a rapist to go to court to stop a woman from having an abortion if he claims to be the father. He also was one of three people who voted for insurance companies being required to pay for mammograms—and Sharyn is a breast cancer survivor. The Illinois General Assembly would benefit significantly with Sharyn being in the House.
There are three races in the Senate that we're really involved in: those involving [Democrats] Susan Garrett, Patrick Ouimet, and Patrick Welch. Garrett is running in the North Shore district. Patrick Ouimet is challenging Pam Althoff in the 32nd District, which is part of McHenry County and part of Lake County. Pat Welch is a pro-choice incumbent who's running in the 38th District.
WCT: It's an interesting scene downstate.
TC: Yes, it is. Unfortunately, so many Democrats and Republicans are right-wing and anti-choice. People mention 'Democrats' and 'Republicans,' but [those labels] have little to do with anything. In Cook and Lake counties, you have moderate Republicans and Democrats. Then, you go downstate and encounter Democrats like Bill Grunloh [in Effingham], who's sponsored an anti-gay marriage amendment—and he has a Republican who's trying to run to the right of him!
Party labels mean nothing; it's more about people's philosophies as well as the regions where people live. I don't think that right-wingers downstate represent the majority of the voters; however, it seems like Republican and Democrat leaders freak out when it comes to social issues like abortion.
WCT: What does working for a candidate entail?
TC: We do four significant things for candidates. The first involves calling every female in a district and asking if they're in favor of keeping the law on abortion the way it is or if they're in favor of changing it. That way, we identify who's pro-choice and who isn't. If they want to keep it the way it is, then the person is pro-choice and we tell them [how the candidates stand on abortion.] We amass thousands of pro-choice voters in each district this way.
The second thing we then do is directly mail these voters. There are different pieces depending on the candidate and the district.
We also help candidates in other ways. For example, we also urge people to register to vote, which usually involves hiring a consultant. In Naomi [Jakobsson's] case, we hired a coordinator who ran a program to register over 10,000 voters. We also provide campaign advice for candidates, which can involve providing campaign documentation or help with public speaking.
The last thing we do is make 'Get out the vote' phone calls the last few days before the election. We remind them of the election date. That involves hundreds of callers in different precincts.
We don't do a scatter-shot approach. One of the reasons I believe we have been successful is because we strategically choose our battles.
WCT: How can people help?
TC: We need Election Day volunteers and people to canvass different areas. If people want to help, they should call the office [at 鵸) 422-0005]. It can definitely make you feel good instead of being frustrated. People should put their fears aside and just dive in.
To find out more about Personal PAC (including how to help), please visit www.personalpac.org; 鵸) 422-0005.