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Kankakee Democrat wins 40th District senate seat over Flossmoor resident

Patrick Joyce, a businessman from Kankakee, has been selected to serve out the remainder of Sen. Toi Hutchinson’s (D-Olympia Fields) Illinois 40th District seat.

Patrick Joyce, a businessman from Kankakee, has been selected to serve out the remainder of Sen. Toi Hutchinson’s (D-Olympia Fields) Illinois 40th District seat.
  Patrick Joyce, a farmer and
  businessman from Kankakee,
  is the newly appointed
  senator for the Illinois 40th
  District, which includes
  Homewood and Flossmoor.
(Carole Sharwarko/
  H-F Chronicle)

On Nov. 8, a selection committee of the district’s Democratic leaders chose Joyce from a group of four candidates looking to replace Hutchinson, who recently resigned the seat she held for 10 years to take a position as Illinois’ new cannabis regulation oversight officer.

Joyce will occupy the seat until at least the presidential primary election in March 2020, when he will have to win it outright against at least one challenger, Flossmoor resident Monica Gordon. Gordon, who is executive director of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Foundation, was one of the three candidates the selection committee passed over in favor of Joyce.
In the meantime, Joyce is the first person from Kankakee to represent the 40th District in 23 years. The last person was his father, the late Illinois Sen. Jerry Joyce, who held the seat for almost 20 years before his retirement in 1992.
The 40th District’s gerrymandered borders make for a geographically and culturally diverse district that includes portions of Cook, Will, Grundy and Kankakee counties. Towns in the 40th range from Homewood and Flossmoor, south to Kankakee and Chebanse, southwest to Gardner and Wilmington, and west to New Lenox and Manhattan.
Joyce said he was motivated to seek the appointment by the fact that the senate seat has been occupied by a Cook County-based politician for two decades — Sen. Debbie Halvorson (D-Crete) held it for 12 years before Hutchinson.
“My local community didn’t have skin in the game,” Joyce said. “I got called by three or four people who asked if I would be interested in entering the race for appointment.”
A newcomer to politics, Joyce visited Flossmoor on Tuesday to attend a meeting of officials who were discussing flooding issues, a topic Joyce said he finds important to address since global warming is “the real deal.” 
An avid outdoorsman, he drove to Flossmoor Village Hall in his blue Ford 150 truck, adorned with a “Corn Life” sticker on the back window.
Joyce grew up in a small, rural town in Kankakee County with a family of farmers who grew corn and soybeans, raised as many as 400 head of sheep at a time. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agrobusiness from Illinois State University, and now owns Joyce Farms Recycling in Essex, Ill., a company that collects organic material for composting.
Though he grew up in a politically active family where he spent time campaigning door-to-door for his dad, Joyce has never worked in government or held an elected post. In an interview after the flooding meeting, he said this lack of political experience presents no obstacle to his success.
“I don’t think a political career is necessary to listening to what your constituents want and to communicate to other senators and representatives to push a bill forward,” he said. 
“I have good communication skills. I know people and get along with people. That’s what it takes — someone who can compromise, who can listen. Those aren’t just good skills for a politician, but for a farmer, a businessman. Anyone with good communication skills can perform this job.”
In the weeks since his appointment, Joyce has been working to fill his calendar with meetings with district mayors. Next stop: He said he wants to visit every school district in the 40th. He plans to maintain the district office in Park Forest and will host a town hall meeting in January.
Joyce acknowledged the challenges of representing such a large and diverse legislative district.
“There’s always going to be legislation that’s going to affect this district from the north end to the south end differently,” Joyce said. “You have to listen to all communities and get something that works for everyone in the district. There’s just no way for this diverse of a district to have legislation that’s going to be popular for the entire district.”

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