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Appointed incumbent faces challenger in 35th District

Rarely does an election feature a challenger who has run for public office more often than the incumbent. But such is the case for the Democratic voters in Mount Greenwood, Orland Park and the rest of the 35th House District who will choose between former special education teacher and incumbent state Rep. Mary Gill and financial adviser David Dewar.

Dewar ran unsuccessfully for this seat in 2022 and for 19th Ward alderman in 2019. Gill is running her first campaign after she was unanimously chosen by Democratic Party leaders out of 15 other applicants — including Dewar — to replace Fran Hurley, who Gov. J.B. Pritzker appointed to serve on the Labor Relations Board.

“I love talking to people, it is one of my favorite things. So it’s easy for me to go door to door to listen and talk and I am really learning a lot,” Gill said.

District 35 incumbent Rep. Mary Gill poses for a photo following an interview with the Daily Southtown and Feb. 28. Her opponenet David Dewar did not agree to having his picture taken and did not send the paper a photo to use. (Hank Sanders/Daily Southtown)
District 35 incumbent Rep. Mary Gill (Hank Sanders/Daily Southtown)

Gill taught special education at Heritage Middle School for four years and served as the executive director of the Mt. Greenwood Community and Business Association, which advocates for policies that help small businesses. Dewar is in private practice as a life insurance producer but said he has spent about 80% of his time recently running his campaign.

Because Gill has been in office less than a year, this legislative session is the first time she has put forward bills as the chief sponsor. The bill she is most excited to champion is full of controversy.

In February, Chicago Board of Education voted unanimously to remove uniformed Chicago Police Department officers from public schools. Gill’s legislation would allow a local school council to set up its own contract with the Chicago Police Department if it decides to keep police officers on campus.

Mayor Brandon Johnson and other progressive leaders who support removing officers cite discrimination of students, noting a 2020 study showing school-based arrests involved Black students 73% of the time despite only making up 36% of students.

But Gill said the idea for her bill, which has more than a half dozen Democratic co-sponsors, came from a school district in her area.

“Parents, teachers, community members: people who are involved in their communities should make that decision,” she said. “The local school councils should be the ones to decide, not downtown.”

The 35th District, traditionally home to many Chicago police and firefighters, is more conservative than central and north portions of Chicago, Gill said. But many of her top priorities remain standard Democratic Party issues, such as protecting abortion rights and fighting for union workers.

Dewar opposes Gill’s more progressive votes including a law that allows noncitizens to be police officers and another that lets multi-occupancy bathrooms to be used by all genders if the venue would like.

David Dewar, (Dewar 2019 campaign)
David Dewar, (Dewar 2019 campaign)

But his biggest issue, he said, is responding to the public’s pleas to fix the recent migrant crisis Chicago and the state has experienced.

“A lot of people that are illegal migrants are coming into the country,” Dewar said in reference to migrants who have come to Chicago from Texas over the past two years.

Dewar sought to end the interview when it was noted a majority of Venezuelan migrants are in the U.S. legally, either seeking or having been granted asylum.

“We’re not even going to go forward anymore,” he said. “Just because somebody puts a stamp as the president, they are still illegal. And what they’re doing is they’re giving money away to —they’re bucking our — so we’re going to end this.”

Dewar said even if the migrants are technically legal, resources should not skip over U.S. citizens to help them. He said the solution is to end the state’s sanctuary status for undocumented immigrants, which he said he would propose if elected.

Dewar did not raise enough money in 2023 to report, and has received no large donations in 2024, according to campaign finance reports. In February, Gill brought in more than $150,000 in cash and in-kind donations, mostly from Democratic politicians, political action committees and businesses.

“I believe I have control of the suburbs. They don’t,” said Dewar. “People know who I am: in Alsip, Worth, Palos Heights, Palos Hills and Orland Park.”

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