By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
With an endorsement from President Barack Obama and the backing of organized labor, attorney Juliana Stratton on Tuesday handily defeated six-term State Rep. Ken Dunkin (5th), who with the help of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, spent more than $1.3 million to defend his seat.
Stratton’s victory was a blow to Rauner who had backed Dunkin after he failed to show up during a critical vote on the governor’s labor legislation.
Stratton was endorsed by organized labor and a bevy of elected officials, including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Secretary of State Jesse White, Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd), and Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan.
At her victory party at the Charles Hayes Center, Stratton said, “It’s not easy to go against an incumbent. They (volunteers) could have taken a pass, but instead they decided to commit their full strength and expertise on my behalf.”
Community activist Camiella Williams said, “I am proud of Juliana. I know she’s going to be good for the people. She helped me with my social justice studies. She’s going to be the voice of the young people.”
Stratton said that “residents see Rep. Dunkin as someone who has turned his back on them.”
Dunkin appeared upbeat when he was interviewed at Norman’s Bistro, 1001 E. 43rd St., his victory party locale. Asked if he is going to run again, Dunkin said, “You never know what God’s steps are for you. The people in the 5th District spoke. They gave me about 7,000 votes and her twice that. I respect that.”
Asked if the endorsement of Stratton by Obama helped, Dun- kin replied, “The president’s validation, confirmation always helps.”
In retrospect, Dunkin stated that he would do things the same. “I would do it exactly the same way.” And for those critics who labeled him a traitor because he sided with Rauner on a labor issue, Dunkin shrugged that off saying, “That’s campaign rhetoric at its worse.”
Despite the loss, Dunkin said he will “keep living, keep serving. My term ends January of 2017. I will keep speaking truth to power” and continue serving on his various committees.
When asked if he will go against the people and side with the governor again, Dunkin said, “I am going to do what is right for whoever needs it the most. I am not a part of this party clique. I’m a part of what’s right for the citizen who we charge taxes. I am going to listen to them and listen to my gut instinct of 13-plus years and serve them. People over politics.”
Dunkin said he has no regrets for siding with the governor.
“I did not side with the governor. I sided with what I thought was right for the people: to get the monies released.
“Had we checkmated the governor, he would have just cuffed the money until he decided. I made decisions for 13-plus years. I will continue to do what is right for the people. That is the least I can do. I don’t have any regrets. I am not sorry. I beat an incumbent (when he was first elected to office). This is life. Today, I’m down. Tomorrow, I’m still in. You may be down today, but that does not mean that I’m out.”
When asked if he thought the governor would hire him, Dunkin said he doesn’t have any expectations of being picked up by anyone “except God.”
John Keeler, a project manager for the Inner City Youth for the Deaf Foundation and a Dunkin supporter, was upset that his candidate did not win saying Dunkin ran a fair campaign. Keeler accused Madigan of “controlling the Democrats in Springfield. He wants puppets.
“The reason why Stratton is in office is so they can control her; tell her what to do; move her around like a puppet on a string. To me, Madigan is a pure gangster—running Springfield, and it is time for him to be dethroned off his throne.”
Stratton is the director for the Center for Public Safety and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to this position, she was executive director of the Cook County Justice Advisory Council for Children where she worked on juvenile justice reform.
A former administrative law judge, Stratton teaches a Negotiations Skills module for Loyola University’s Executive MBA program.