By Michael Romain
After the deadline to file petitions to run for state office ended yesterday, both State Representatives Emanuel “Chris” Welch, a Democrat who represents the 7th District (which covers nearly all of Maywood), and Kathleen Willis, a Democrat who represents the 77th District (which covers a small portion of Maywood north of Lake Street), found themselves facing either primary and/or general election challengers.
Rep. Welch, who’s finishing his first year in the legislature, is a lawyer by profession who served as President of the District 209 Board of Education for nearly a decade before resigning this year, and a Maywood native who currently lives in Hillside. He faces Democrat Antoinette “Toni” Gray, a native and current resident of Maywood and owner of a Farmers Insurance agency located at 901 S. 5th Avenue. Although she doesn’t practice law, Gray, a former college instructor and administrator, earned a juris doctorate and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in the area of education.
Although the primary contest between Gray and Welch is shaping to be the central narrative of the race for the 7th District seat (here’s one sub-plot: Gray is a graduate of Proviso East High School in Maywood and Welch is an alumnus of Proviso West High School in Hillside), Republican Mark Salispan seeks to present a formidable obstacle in the general election for either candidate–despite his relative obscurity. Right now, the only thing we know definitely about Salispan is that he lives in Maywood (according to the Illinois State Board of Elections website).
Incumbent Kathleen Willis, a resident of Addison and former member of its District 4 school board, is also a first-term legislator, having beat out longtime incumbent Angelo “Skip” Saviano in 2012. She’s being challenged by Antonio Favela of Melrose Park. Favela, a law student at John Marshall Law School in Chicago, ran unsuccessfully for clerk in Melrose Park as part of the Reform Melrose Park (FMP) Party. VFP