Austin Town Hall, 5610 W. Lake St., was the scene last Saturday of State Senator Don Harmon’s kick-off campaign. Surrounded by his wife, Teresa, his mother, and three children, Sen. Harmon (39th Dist.) was upbeat, smiling and ready to begin his campaign. Harmon has deep roots in Oak Park, Austin and the western suburbs. He attended St. Giles Grade School and remains a member of the parish. Sen. Harmon graduated from St. Ignatius High School on Chicago’s near West Side and attended Knox College in Galesburg. He worked his way through the University of Chicago where he received both his law degree and MBA.

In his introduction of the senator, Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th Ward) shared with the audience the recent early voting law that was passed Sept. 19. “The early voting will have the touch screen and that is something new. In my ward I want you all to know we’re treating the first day of ‘early voting’ like it’s election day. Carothers stressed that as politicians, “We should not come to you and ask for your vote. We should get your vote because we have earned your vote, because we have done our jobs in Springfield or City Hall, wherever it is. I say if you do your job, the people will take care of you. There is an old adage in politics: “Take care of the people, the people will take care of you.”

Rep. Deborah Graham (78 Dist.) who is also up for re-election expressed her support for Sen. Harmon and how much she has learned from the senator and Ald. Carothers.

Ald. Carothers states that he is one of Senator Harmon’s constituents and the senator must lobby him, his wife and take nothing for granted.

Harmon answered the following questions for Austin Weekly News:

Q: What has been your most outstanding accomplishment?

A: “I think I’m proudest of the Austin Jobs Center. It’s an initiative that came out of the community. Eyes on Austin has established a job center up on North Avenue that is serving the community, with a coffee shop, a copy shop, book store and we’ll working real hard to establish some partnerships with private sector companies, so that folks transitioning out of the job training will have real permanent jobs to move into.”

Q: What are your plans for your district if re-elected?

A: “There’s a lot of work left to be done and we’re trying to stay the course in increased funding for education without burdening taxpayers, do more to make sure that health care is available for everyone who needs it, continue the fight for public safety, taking guns off the streets, keeping sexual predators from harming our children, and most of all, increasing the economic opportunities for everybody in the community.”

Q: Are there any plans in the future for higher office?

A: “I’m delighted with the job that I have, and I’m lucky to have it. I work with those who have served in the General Assembly for 10 and 20 years and done great things, so I enjoy the job I have. A good politician never says never, [but] I’m happy where I am.”

Q: What have you worked on regarding the high cost medical?

A: “We’re working real hard. We’ve expanded the Kid Care and Family Care programs so that more people have access to health care. We are going down to Springfield this week to start working on the Governor’s proposal to establish the All Kids Program which would provide affordable health care coverage for every kid in the state regardless of their income level. There is an awful lot of work left to be done, but that’s a real good start.”

Q: What programs for seniors in your district are you working on?

A: “One of the things we promised in the last campaign was to establish a low-cost prescription drug program. We did that?”the I Save RX Program. Thousands of seniors across the state are benefiting from lower cost prescription drugs. … We’re also very concerned right now about the high cost of gas and the heating bills folks are going to face this winter. So we’re working with the LIHEAP program, the homeowners’ energy assistance program, and trying to make sure the federal government does what it needs to do to expand that programs when folks are facing such incredible demands.”

Q: Are there any plans for affordable housing in your district?

A: We are always looking for opportunities to build more affordable housing. It’s one of the most difficult problems we face, given the intense capital cost. But we do work with affordable housing developers and affordable housing groups to try to make sure those developments move forward anytime that they have.”

Q: Do you have any opponents? What in your record will opponents key-in on?

A: “I appear to have a primary opponent and a general election opponent, and, frankly, I’m not entirely sure what they would disagree with that I’ve done. I’ve done my best to serve the entire district, and I hope that the folks in the district recognize that. I’m happy to campaign on my record, and if all they can say about me is that I’m too independent or too progressive, I like my odds.”

Note: The Early Voting Law was signed last month by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and is very similar to the absentee voting. However, the strict rules for absentee do not apply. Early voting allows anyone, including people who don’t meet requirements for absentee voting to cast a ballot. The bill is designed to get more people to participate. Especially people who have legitimate reasons why they can’t get to the polls. Early voting will take effect for the first time in Illinois prior to the March 21, 2006 gubernatorial primary election.