Graham helps select replacement

Harmon chairs selection committee for house seat

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By DEBORAH KADIN

Deborah Graham, former state representative and the newly minted alderman serving the West Side, will help choose her replacement in the Illinois House.

The four-term state representative will be one of seven elected Democratic Party officials who will interview and select who will represent the state's 78th District, which includes some of the west suburbs and parts of Chicago's Austin neighborhood. That person will be the Democratic nominee for the seat in the November general election.

Graham's replacement must be named 30 days from the date she steps down from the Illinois General Assembly. Having a successor in place will be important as lawmakers could be preparing to cast votes on critical matters such as the state budget and a possible tax hike.

Graham is participating in the process as the committeeman from the 29th Ward. Other committeemen involved in the process are: Oak Park Township Committeeman Don Harmon, Proviso Township Committeeman Karen Yarbrough, River Forest Township Committeeman Thomas Cargie, 37th Ward Committeeman Emma Mitts, 28th Ward Committeeman Ed Smith and 36th Ward Committeeman William Banks.

The successor will be chosen based on a weighted vote determined by how many people cast ballots for her in the 2008 election in each ward and township in the 78th District, said Harmon, who will be the chairman of the selection committee.

Harmon said a process for selecting a successor would be set up once a vacancy had been created. He added that the committee also would look at how other legislative vacancies had been handled.

Harmon said they would make the process as open and transparent as possible.

Committee members said they would take applications from anyone who was interested. To serve as a member of the General Assembly, a person must be a U.S. citizen, be at least 21 years of age and live in the district for two years, according to the Illinois Constitution.

The 29th Ward has been without an alderman since Feb. 1 when Ike Carothers pleaded guilty to bribery and tax charges. Graham would have to stand for election in February 2011.

Graham, who Mayor Richard Daley named as Carothers' successor last month, said she would continue her predecessor's monthly community meetings and focus her attention on violence, crime, gangs, cleanliness and development in the 29th Ward.

The 43-year-old Graham, a native of Chicago's West Side, said she was told that to join the City Council she would have to relinquish her seat in Springfield and cede her nomination for her fifth, two-year term. Graham will also step down as the coordinator of special projects for the city's Department of Planning and Development, where she has worked since 2000.

Illinois is one of 18 states in which a legislator may not hold a second state level elected office but allows the legislator to hold a second county or municipal office if those offices are not "incompatible," according to a study conducted in 2007 by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Holding dual offices would be "incompatible," according to the Illinois Constitution, if a state legislator receives "compensation as a public officer or employee from any other governmental entity for time during which he is in attendance as a member of the General Assembly."

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