On Nov. 3, voters in the Illinois Senate’s 40th District will choose between incumbent Patrick Joyce, a Democrat who lives in Essex, and Eric Wallace, a Republican who lives in Flossmoor.
In November 2019 Joyce was selected by Democratic committeemen to fill the seat after Toi Hutchinson resigned. Joyce secured a spot on the ballot by winning the Democratic primary in March.
Wallace has run for office before but has not yet secured a post.
Joyce’s main focus is on environmental conservation and energy issues.
He helped secure funding in the state’s most recent capital bill to help with Flossmoor’s flooding issues and to mitigate sediment problems on the Kankakee River.
His effort to initiate other legislation was thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t know what a normal legislature looks like. I haven’t seen it,” he said. “I have several pieces of legislation that I want to move forward and there’s no moving forward.”
Instead, he has been working to help solve community issues. He’s working with private water supplier Aqua Illinois and University Park officials through issues of lead in the village’s water supply.
He worked with Pembroke Township in its efforts to acquire natural gas service. Joyce is co-sponsoring a bill amending the Public Utilities Act making it easier for gas utility companies to recover costs associated with expanding their service areas.
Wallace said his highest priority is good governance, something he believes Illinois has lacked for many years.
“Illinois has had corrupt government for a long time,” he said, noting that both Democratic and Republican politicians have been imprisoned in recent years for criminal corruption.
Wallace is using the campaign theme “RISE up and build,” a line from the biblical story of Nehemiah, which recounts how Jewish people rebuilt the dilapidated walls of Jerusalem in 52 days. RISE is an acronym for “responsible government,” “individual liberty and fidelity,” “strong family values” and “economic empowerment.”
The 40th district that covers urban, suburban and rural communities with divergent problems and interests.
Joyce, a farmer and outdoorsman, said he has made special efforts to learn about the urban and suburban communities in the district, meeting with local government leaders and asking them for their views on issues affecting their communities.
He said when a bill restricting the use of red light cameras came before the legislature earlier this year, he contacted Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld and other village officials to get their views.
By contrast, Wallace comes from the suburban end of the district. A former Matteson resident he now lives in Flossmoor. He knows the South Suburbs well, but is less familiar with rural issues.
“I’m not a farmer, so I have to rely on them to tell me,” he said. “You’ve got to have good people around you who can tell you about the problems in the farming community.”
South suburban airport
A proposed airport near Peotone has been in the planning process since 1984, and while construction is not imminent, it remains an issue for area legislators to grapple with.
Joyce noted recent progress on the project. Significant improvements are being made, including a new I-57 interchange at Eagle Lake Road that would improve traffic flow to a south suburban airport.
The airport still lacks a commitment from a major airline, which would help ensure the facility’s viability. The state has purchased more than 80 percent of the land.
In spite of the problems getting the project going, Joyce said he will support it.
“I think it would be a windfall for the south suburban area in terms of jobs,” he said. “For that reason, I will push to make sure that happens.”
Wallace is more lukewarm to the idea but not strongly opposed to it. He said economic development efforts should focus on other options rather than on the airport.
“I wouldn’t hang everything on it,” he said. “Other communities are doing quite well without an airport.”
He noted the opposition in the Peotone area, saying he supports the rights of people to determine what happens in their communities.
“I’m probably not going to be a cheerleader for it, but I’m not going to get in the way,” he said.