The most talked about local political race heats up

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Cover_GuzzardiAll three major teachers unions in Illinois are endorsing progressive candidate Will Guzzardi as state representative in Illinois’s 39th District: the Illinois Education Association (IEA), Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) and Chicago Teachers Union Local 1 (CTU). Guzzardi is running for the second time against opponent Maria “Toni” Berrios after losing by 125 votes to her in the 2012 elections.

“We have to start asking the tough questions. Toni Berrios doesn’t come with a full platform. She is not an independent or progressive thinker. She doesn’t have an in-depth knowledge of what we need in public education. Will Guzzardi is very open, progressive and welcoming of all ethnicities. He supports good public education,” said Sara Echevarria, director of Chicago Teachers Union’s business department and teacher for 28 years.EXTRA sat down with Guzzardi to ask the tough questions

.EXTRA: What got you interested in politics in the first place?

Will Guzzardi: I got interested in politics when I was working at the Huffington Post as a reporter. I was writing a lot of stories about what was going on in the neighborhoods and community organizations and I saw how the failures of state government were hurting the neighborhoods. It made me understand that I can’t sit on the side lines and watch.

How many years have you been actively involved in politics?

It’s been two and a half years now. I feel passionate about this kind of work.

What is your strategy in winning this race?

I spent a ton of time knocking door to door. My opponent has tons of money and they will spend it on TV ads, mailers and say all kinds of things, but at the end of the day we have knocked on doors since September.

What do you think your opponent, Toni Berrios, has left unresolved?

My opponent has a record of not supporting public education. She has pushed for additional charter schools in the area.

Other than education, what else do you support?

The other one is the economy. Right now our state is in big trouble. I think everyone knows we have cut too much. My opponent has been voting for tax breaks for these huge corporations and that’s money that our public schools are not getting.

What changes have you been involved in over the last two years?

The school closings I was involved in personally. We have a great school in the neighborhood [Brentano Math and Science Academy] and it was on the list [of schools] they wanted to close. I spent several months working with the principals and teachers and parents and collected over a thousand petitions. Our schools are deprived of resources–not enough teachers, textbooks. As the budget cuts keep coming, kids lose the education that we care about.

I worked on a bill to get passed in Springfield for online voter registration. In the summer, you will be able to register online and that is a big step forward, especially for young people.

Also, I fought for an elected school board in Illinois. We haven’t won it yet but we got 87 percent of the vote [to change the law.]

What are some of the issues you want to work on when you win?

I understand that we face real challenges in the neighborhood right now and I really firmly believe the only way to make progress is by changing the system and government and electing leadership that is fighting for the community. I want us to be represented by someone who is listening to the community.

For more on Guzzardi, please visit www.willguzzardi.com.

EXTRA sat down with Berrios to ask the tough questions.

Cover_BerriosThe Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois have endorsed State Rep. Maria Antonia “Toni” Berrios in the March 18th Democratic primary election. She is the first Puerto Rican woman to serve in the Illinois House of Representatives.

“The Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois are proud to support Toni Berrios for state representative because she supports fire fighters,” said Pat Devaney, president of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois. “We need a representative who will continue to stand up for all of the working men and women in her district.”

Berrios’s endorsements also include: the Political Action Committee for Equality Illinois, the National Association of Social Workers Illinois Chapter Political Action Committee, Personal PAC, Planned Parenthood Illinois Action,  Aldermen Rey Colon (35th Ward), Timothy Cullerton (38th Ward), Roberto Maldonado (26th Ward), Ariel Reboyras (30th Ward) and Ray Suarez (31st Ward).

EXTRA: How long have you been involved in politics?

Maria “Toni” Berrios: As an elected official, this is my sixth term but I have been volunteering since I was 13 years old. This is a Latino district and being Latina myself in the House of Representatives gives me pride to represent my community.Tell me about your campaign and strategy in running against Will Guzzardi.I have been door knocking since before the election to meet the people one on one and discuss individual issues, their concerns, worries. I think that has helped us move our focus in the office too. Our office is a full service constituency service.

What do you hope to work on differently if you win?

I will definitely continue fighting for education, like the parents mentor program, which started in Logan Square. Making sure that community schools are doing the best that they can and put more dollars in education and safety. Safety is a big issue for me. Raising the minimum wage is something that we will continue to work on this year.

How have you supported education?

I am the daughter of a school teacher. My mother was a teacher for 25 years. Education is one of my top priorities even if they don’t agree. They [the CTU] have always supported my opposition.

What issues do you feel were left unresolved in your term as a State Representative?

I want to continue to be the voice for the district and community, the community I grew up in. I want to bring the resources to my district. I want to hold a woman’s health fair, including free mammograms to try to get early detection of cancer. I want to organize job fairs to get people back to work. I work with small businesses.

How do you feel about your opponent, Will Guzzardi?

Everyone’s qualifications are different and if he wants to run for office because he needs a job that’s OK. I believe that on Election Day the voters will vote for the one that will do the best job, the one that makes families safe and keeps fighting for rights and I believe that’s me.

How do you feel about the Associated Fire Fighters supporting you?

I have always had an open door policy. Groups can come and discuss their issues and I stand up with the fire fighters and I did not vote for the pension bill, which was a huge bill last year and the fire fighters stand up for their side for pension negotiation. I have also been voting against tax cuts for day corporations.

What do you want to say to the voters?

I believe I am the best candidate that represents them because I grew up in the neighborhood and I understand their needs and I enjoy doing it. I enjoy representing the community I grew up in.

For more information on Berrios, please visit  www.toniberrios.com.

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