State representative Sam Yinglingthe first openly gay person elected to the state legislature from outside of Chicagosees economics as the driving issue in his re-election campaign in the Illinois House's 62nd District.
Economic issueslike property taxes, funding for public education and the state budget crisishave constituted Yingling's core campaign issue since he was first elected to office several years ago.
Despite that narrow focus, his actions in office demonstrate a longstanding commitment to equal rights for LGBTQ people.
Heading into this year's election cycle, he's ready to keep that focus on the economy and fiscal responsibility while reminding voters he has a strong record in defending and promoting equality.
Windy City Times ( WCT ): During your previous campaigns, you focused more on the economy and fiscal responsibility. Is that your primary focus this election as well?
Sam Yingling ( SY ): The main focus is property-tax reformthat is my singular focus in this sessionand will continue to be my focus going into November. The make-up of this General Assembly has recognized that we are facing a property tax crisis, and I believe there is finally the political willpower to address it. We're looking to utilize those possibilities. I'm cautiously optimistic that was can have a comprehensive property tax reform bill that gets passed by the end of session.
WCT: You've been in office a while now after winning several elections. What would you say are some of your biggest accomplishments over the past few terms?
SY: The most notable accomplishment that I have participated in with other legislators would be the passage of marriage equality. That happened my first year [in office]. I was the first LGBT legislator outside of Chicago. I brought a very unique perspective in helping a lot of suburban members on that bill. It was a big accomplishment for me my first year.
My larger accomplishments have been my involvement with the equal rights amendment. That was a massive accomplishment for the state of Illinois and really took a solid team effort to pass that. The pro-choice legislation that we passed to protect a woman's right to choose. We are now the leading state in the nation on thatI know Representative [Kelly] Cassidy lead the charge on that and it was great working with her.
I would say that to date those are what I would consider to be huge advancements within the state of Illinois and I'm really honored to have been able to be a part of those.
WCT: Keeping on the theme of LGBTQ issues, what would you say are the most pressing issues for your LGBTQ constituents and for other LGBTQ people across the state?
SY: I think right now what we need to focus on is transgender rights and protections. That is primarily what I am hearing from the overall LGBTQ community. We've made some advances on thatI carried the all gender bathroom bill which went into effect in January. We're already starting to see establishments adhere to that new law which is great. There's a lot of work to be done. I'm working with the Human Rights Commission right now to modify the language in our laws so it gives them greater flexibility in helping transgender individuals who have filed discrimination claims.
WCT: On a related note, your campaign website makes no mention of LGBTQ issues, nor does it feature your husband either in photos or in your biography. You are in a conservative districtwas that an intentional move?
SY: I'm really embarrassed to admit this. That site desperately needs to be updated. So, in large part, I think it just has to do with updates; there's no specific rhyme or reason to it. It's just not been updated.
WCT: Do you have anything else to add we didn't touch on that you believe voters should know about your campaign?
SY: My district is very fiscally conservative, but they are also very interested in social justice. And those primary arenas are where my focus will remain.
For more information on Representative Yingling's campaign, see SamYingling.com .