5 candidates running for Meeks' seat in Ill. Senate

December 9, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Meeks' departure from the Illinois legislature opens the door for the candidates to campaign for the 15th District, which struggles with high unemployment and competing for business opportunities.

Candidate Joe Letke is a certified public accountant in Glenwood with a specialty in municipal accounting. He says expertise that is needed in the now.

"By understanding finances you will be able to structure deals or arrangements that will help with economic development," said Letke.

Sports fans may recognize candidate Napoleon Harris. The former Northwestern and NFL linebacker opened two restaurants in the south suburbs featuring his favorite pizza. Now the businessman is taking a run at politics.

"It was calling me. The people wanted change. They wanted leadership they can depend on that was going to go to Springfield and fight to bring resources to the 15th District," said Letke.

Donna Miller may also be familiar to some voters. Her husband, David Miller, was a state representative and ran unsuccessfully for state comptroller. Now Mrs. Miller is eager to bring her experience in healthcare industry to the legislature.

"My experience in the corporate world lends itself to being a good negotiator, being a great leaders and also being a person who knows how to bring different factions together," she said.

In South Holland, the village's deputy administrator is running for the state Senate seat. Pat Mahon is an attorney who has worked for the village the last decade. She says she wants to continue Rev. Meek's efforts to reform education.

"There's a need to give our children an option as far as their education and bring back trade curriculum. The trades have left our schools as you know and I think there's a need to bring that back," said Mahon.

Marquise Alston rounds out the field. She is the director of operations and finance for the historically Black Colleges and Universities fundraising calendar. ABC7 was unable to meet with Ms. Alston for an interview.

The other candidates ABC7 interviewed say they would not be seeking the office if Rev. Meeks, pastor of Salem Baptist Church, was running. But his announcement to focus on his ministry created an opening for all of these first time political candidates.

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