Calling it the "most absurd campaign piece he has ever seen," state House District 59 candidate Elliott Hartstein said his Democratic primary opponent is using "distortions" in two direct mail campaign pieces sent in recent days.
Hartstein, who is currently Buffalo Grove village president, said state Rep. Carol Sente claims he tried to take away free speech rights for people attending zoning hearings.
The ad uses quotes from 2005 newspaper stories about Hartstein's visit to Springfield to lobby for a bill that focused on zoning hearing rules. It concludes by stating, "For Elliott Hartstein, sometimes the First Amendment is just a suggestion, not a right."
He's also upset by another piece warning voters of his support for a tax increase to bolster the state's budget.
"She was appointed by party leaders and her political godfather, Mike Madigan, who is bankrolling a good portion of her campaign," Hartstein said Monday. "They should be ashamed of themselves for their current tactics in the primary races."
Sente, who was appointed to replace state Rep. Kathy Ryg who stepped down last August to run a children's advocacy group, said she stands by the content of the mailers.
"It is highly regrettable that Mr. Hartstein has chosen hyperbole, distortion, and emotion over fact. It is also ironic that Hartstein begins his news release with slurs against fellow Democrats and later demands that 'Democrats should work together,'" Sente said in an e-mail response.
"I understand that Mr. Hartstein doesn't like having his record challenged, but the article to which he refers was published in the Daily Herald. I believe it to be an accurate representation of Mr. Hartstein's intentions and motivations in lobbying for a law that would have denied citizens the right to speak before the planning commission."
Hartstein said some of the quotes used in that mailer were from published stories, and cobbled together with statements from Sente's campaign.
"The quotes are out of context and deceptively try to lead people to believe that most of the copy was from newspaper accounts but most of it was written by the Madigan ad team," Hartstein said.
He was backing legislation to streamline the hearing process, not restrict speech, Hartstein said.
"There was a court case that made the zoning and planning process cumbersome by making each proceeding somewhat of a trial where it became more necessary for people to use attorneys to cross examine. Every town in the state worked to clean it up so that we would not have a cumbersome and expensive process." Hartstein said, "I, like many other mayors, encouraged legislation to clarify the process that Senator Susan Garrett introduced and ultimately got legislation passed."
On the tax issue, Hartstein admits he's open to a tax increase, but with qualifications.
"I would only consider a tax increase after reforms and cuts were made," he said. "I would not support any tax increase unless it was tied to significant property tax relief and a significant increase in the amount of income that is exempt from taxation."
Sente said Hartstein's position on taxes is muddled.
"On the issue of taxes the difference between us could not be more clear. Hartstein has consistently throughout the campaign championed the fact that he is willing to consider increasing income taxes by up to 66 percent, possibly expanding the sales tax to include services, all the while offering vague assurances that he also supports tax relief," Sente said. "I do not support increasing the income or sales taxes."
Madigan's press secretary Steve Brown said Madigan didn't direct Sente's appointment.
"She's done a good job in the short time she's been appointed," Brown said Monday. "She was appointed by local party officials not by Mike Madigan."
Republicans Dan Sugrue and Mohan Manian, both of Green Oaks, are also running in the Feb. 2 primary. Cynthia Hebda's name will appear on the ballot, but she is no longer a candidate.