Whoever replaces Deborah Graham as state representative for the 78th District will need to build bridges between the Austin and Oak Park communities, says an Austin businessman with ties to both areas.

Seven people have applied for Graham’s former seat since she was sworn in March 26 as alderman for Chicago’s 29th Ward. She’ll also help select her replacement in the 78th.

Among the candidates vying are those with close ties to Austin, the West Side and Cook County. Ade Onayemi, a founder of the Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy, is not among the names but he is looking forward to working with the person. He encourages that individual to work with both communities.

“Whoever gets in that position cannot be a quiet person who’s going to go along to get along,” said Onayemi, whose architectural firm, Urban Resource Inc., is located in Austin. “I’m not looking for an activist person but an active person.”

Though two separate communities, Austin and Oak Park have shared interests, Onayemi said-for instance, the sale of West Sub Hospital and the recent closing of Aldi’s on Lake Street.

The Democratic Party of Oak Park’s Web site-www.oakparkdems.org-currently has the applicants’ names. The interviews and selection process coordinated by the Oak Park Township Democratic Committee will take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday April 24, at Oak Park’s Carlton Hotel, 1110 Pleasant.

Democratic committeemen from Oak Park, River Forest, Maywood and the West Side will choose the next state rep.

Hunter Clauss of Austintalks.org contributed to this story

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

Prospective candidates

  • Ralph Martire, former Chicago Sun-Times columnist; currently executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.
  • Camille Lilly, vice president of external affairs at Loretto Hospital and the executive director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce.
  • Rev. Marshall Hatch, pastor of New Mt. Pilgrim Church in West Garfield Park.
  • Blake Sercye, staff member with the University of Chicago Law School's legal forum.
  • Bruce Washington, Cook County director of capital planning and facilities management.
  • Maretta Brown-Miller, staff assistant with the Chicago Park District
  • Ted Leverenz, sales consultant and lobbyist in Springfield.