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Two candidates who deserve notice… and respect

Wednesday, Oct 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* President Trump won the 109th House District with a 61.5 percentage-point margin. Yes, you read that right. It was his highest margin in any House district in Illinois. Gov. Rauner won the 109th by 55 percentage points four years ago - also the best he did anywhere. Secretary of State Jesse White lost a handful of House districts four years ago, but he lost the 109th by the largest margin, 9.83 percentage points.

Remember the Olney Daily Mail story that slobbered all over Gov. Rauner and his throbbing black motorcycle? Olney is in the 109th House District.

* So my hat is off to Cynthia Given, the Democratic candidate in the 109th. To even think about running in a district like that requires strong character

Cynthia Given, a Democrat, is a resident of Olney and recently celebrated her 11th year as a small business owner. She also spends her time mentoring other small business owners and helping their businesses to grow. Given is a graduate of Carmi-White County High School, Wabash Valley College and Southeastern Illinois College. She has served on the board of directors for her high school alumni association for over 10 years and is involved in the Richland County CEO program, Richland County 100 Women Who Care and the Olney and Greater Richland County Chamber of Commerce. Given also serves as a precinct committeewoman and secretary of the Richland County Democratic party. […]

Given said that even before she began running for office, she has reached out to those across the political spectrum in the district and asked their opinions on her candidacy for the 109th House District. She said she also already has made connections with constituents through her work in two state Senate offices. […]

“I am one of those people who some of their political values don’t always fit into those neat boxes of ‘R’ or ‘D’, and I’ve kept that transparency. I’ve been open to people,” Given said. “The word that I haven’t heard here yet is ‘listen,’ and I think that is how you connect to your constituents.”

Given spent $1800 for yard signs in the last quarter and gave $275 to a Richland County 4-H fundraiser.

* Moving right along, Hillary Clinton won the 58th House District by a 40-point margin. It can be a bit “swingy” down-ballot, but, overall, this is a Democratic district currently represented by Scott Drury.

Republican Rick Lesser is an attorney and a former township official whose campaign slogan is “A better Illinois for our grandchildren.” From his bio

Since 1980, Rick has been in private practice representing individuals and small businesses. He has an A-V rating, the highest available, for integrity and skill. In 1987, he moved his business to Lake County. In 1997, Rick founded a firm in Lake County dedicated to estate planning for individuals and succession planning for small business owners. That firm, Lesser, Lutrey, Pasquesi and Howe, LLP, won the Chamber of Commerce award for community service.

Rick is an active community leader. He has served as a volunteer President of six civic organizations: Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce (Rick organized the merger of the two organizations); Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Rotary Club; Lake County Bar Association; Lake County Bar Foundation; Lake County Estate Planning Council; and Deerfield Optimist Club. As President of the Bar Association, Rick created the Association’s Board of Directors and opened the Association to non-lawyer members, such as paralegals. The result was a substantial increase in the size and the vitality of the 100-year-old Association. […]

In 1976, Rick graduated with an A average as a History major from the University of Illinois. After graduating college, he went to the corner of LaSalle and Jackson, took the elevator up to the top floor, and walked door to door until he found a job as a clerk with a small law firm. He then went on to graduate from the University of Michigan Law School, one of the country’s top law schools.

The Sun-Times said Lesser has “a strong resume of public service as a village trustee and former president of a variety of local civic and business organizations,” but endorsed his opponent Bob Morgan, who was also endorsed by the Tribune. The Daily Herald endorsed Lesser, saying his “local-government experience and background as a real estate attorney give him strong insight into the workings of government and an understanding of the complex challenges of the state’s property tax and pension problems — as well as a sense of urgency on the need to solve them.”

Lesser had $24K in his campaign account coming in to October compared to his Democratic opponent’s $164K. He’s gonna get slaughtered, but he’s still out there working.

* You don’t have to agree with either of these two candidates on the issues, or their sources of funding or whatever to respect what they’re doing. Neither has a chance in heck of winning and their respective state party chairmen have likely given them zero thought. They’re receiving almost no attention from any media outlet, no fancy political columnist will sing their praises or even make the effort to cut them down a peg. But they are both civic-minded people doing what they can to make a difference in the communities they love.

Hang in there, Cynthia and Rick. You make me proud to be an Illinoisan.


  1. - Handle Bar Mustache - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 9:16 am:

    Very cool of you to highlight them, Rich. Bob Morgan is a great human and will be an outstanding state rep but I didn’t know this about his opponent. Kudos to both of these earnest strivers.

  2. - Maestro - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 9:20 am:

    Yes yes. It is candidates like these people who make our democracy stronger.

  3. - Fixer - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 9:22 am:

    I have a lot of respect for a candidate willing to say what Given said. It’s not hyperpartisan, and is something that is true of most voters.

    Good luck to both of these candidates, and hopefully they’ll have some more name recognition next time around should they choose to run again.

  4. - RWP - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 9:28 am:

    Rich: Thanks for posting this. I agree that these are the types of people who give me some faith in our entire system. I would just add the same for the everyday people who volunteer in politics on behalf of the issues and concerns they care about. Many of them for countless hours every year with little or no recognition.

  5. - Down South Dem - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 9:31 am:

    Given has been working very hard, doing a lot door-to-door and hitting all the events. She is running against a person, Darin Bailey, who is going to be able to do nothing for our district because of the all the people he alienated on both sides of the fence during his primary.
    Thinking about a petition to change our slogan from home of the white squirrel to Olney where Life is Throbbing.

  6. - illini - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 9:35 am:

    Although I do not live in the District and can’t vote for Cynthia I have met her on several occasions. She is the real deal and would be a true fresh face in the GA. Very tough district for her to run in but she may surprise a lot of people.

  7. - Driving a car - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 9:36 am:


  8. - Shamrockery - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 9:52 am:

    More like these two, please.

  9. - depressed in politics - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 9:54 am:

    This is the most hopeful political story I’ve heard in a very long time. Thanks.

  10. - Earnest - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 9:59 am:

    >Hang in there, Cynthia and Rick. You make me proud to be an Illinoisan.

    Strongly agree. Thank you to both for your hard work and dedication to democracy.

  11. - A Young Person - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 10:09 am:

    Thanks Rich for covering these two people

  12. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 10:27 am:

    More of this, please. More bipartisanship and less being beholden to party leaders and their gamesmanship.

  13. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 10:47 am:

    Thanks for this piece Rich.

  14. - My New Handle - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 10:48 am:

    “They’re receiving almost no attention from any media outlet, no fancy political columnist will sing their praises or even make the effort to cut them down a peg.”
    Make that almost no fancy political columnist.

  15. - occasional quipper - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 11:00 am:

    This article was a ray of sunshine in a particularly gloomy political season. Thank you for writing it!

  16. - anon2 - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 1:19 pm:

    Yet in the whole county of Cook, the GOP couldn’t find a warm body to run for county board president. Which tells us something about how weak the GOP is in the state’s biggest county.

  17. - aunt_petunia - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 2:50 pm:

    It’s always a great pleasure to run into Cynthia Given on the campaign trail. She’ll make a great representative for the 109th.

  18. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 3:14 pm:

    To the Post,

    Thank you both for your strong participation in the electoral process. It’s critically important that everyone not only has choices, but those choices run a fair and honest campaign to highlight the differences to policy and politics.

    I’m grateful to you both.

    Don’t get discouraged. We all owe a great debt of thanks and i hope you don’t give up on participating in process again, at your own choosing.


    Oswego Willy

  19. - Doc Anonymous - Thursday, Nov 1, 18 @ 9:13 am:

    Thanks for the positive political story. They are few and far between. This is a fine example of the respectful but never fawning approach you bring to politics. You recognizezerhe humanity of people, something too often lost in political coverage. It elevates an area that sure needs elevating these days.

  20. - JR - Thursday, Nov 1, 18 @ 10:44 am:

    I found Cynthia Given’s FB page and figured out how to donate to her. Wishing this well-qualified candidate in the 109th the best of luck.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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