Two openly lesbian candidates for the 14th District state representative seat, incumbent Rep. Kelly Cassidy and challenger Paula Basta, went face to face in a debate put on by Gay Chicago TV Friday at Mary’s Attic.
The 30-minute debate was moderated by TJ Chernick of Chicago Phoenix and Anchor of the Gay Report on Gay Chicago TV, and covered a range of topics including Illinois state policy, budget reform issues, medicaid and senior care, and other fiscal and social concerns. The Democratic contender for the seat will be determined in the Illinois Primary Election, March 20.
Prior to the event, attendees were allowed to submit questions on notecards for the candidates, and four questions were selected at random by the moderator and asked to the seat contenders following the initial segment of the debate.
One question posed by the audience mentioned environmental sustainability, for which the Andersonville neighborhood boasts a strong record, and how the seat holder will contribute to the neighborhood’s mission
“One great example is the Andersonville Chamber’s bi-local program,” said Cassidy during the debate. “I’ve been advocating with DCEO (Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity) to fund the Andersonville Chamber to create a model that can be picked up and moved all over our city, all over our state.”
One question that has been of growing concern for the LGBT community is marriage equality in Illinois. Each candidate showed their support for the idea of pushing beyond civil unions.
“As we will pass marriage, and we will,” said Basta.”We will go beyond marriage and look to other things that [improve] quality of life for our LGBT folks.”
Rep. Cassidy has been serving in the seat since May of last year and has so far had an active term having sponsored several bills dealing with such issues as gun control, child protections, hate crimes, among others; and was a co-sponsor for Rep. Greg Harris’ Religious Freedom and Marriage Act. Also, openly gay, Cassidy has lived in the Edgewater neighborhood for 17 years with her partner and three sons.
Rep. Cassidy was appointed into the position by 48th Ward Committeewoman Carol Ronen last year after the previous seat holder, Harry Osterman, was elected 48th Ward alderman. Basta was also among the 23 considered for the position, and upon the announcement of Cassidy’s appointment, announced her candidacy for the seat.
Basta began her career as a social worker and has a long history in working with senior citizens and families, including her time as executive director of HOME (Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly). An openly gay and partnered candidate, she is active in the LGBT community having served on the board of Equality Illinois for seven years, and currently serves on the Chicago Task Force on LGBT Aging, among other LGBT organizations.
The 14th district is a coveted district that consists of the neighborhoods of Edgewater, Andersonville, Rogers Park and a small section of southern Evenston.