Monday, March 19, 2018

Ira Silverstein, Democrat for the Senate

Illinois State Senator, Ira Silverstein (Crain's)Updtaed
Senator Silverstein lost the primary election - coming in second at 29% to Ram Villivalam at 52%

The negative consequences of a false accusation of sexual harassment can be found today right here in Chicago.

I don’t usually comment on local elections. But in the upcoming Illinois primary – which will take place tomorrow - the welfare of Orthodox Jewry in Chicago is at stake. Which is why I am endorsing Ira Silverstein for re-election to the Illinois Senate. That would not have been necessary had he not been falsely accused of sexual harassment. The 20 year veteran of the Senate had easily been re-elected every time he ran. But this time, his election is far from assured. He is fighting for his job.

Late last October, he was accused of sexual harassment by victims’ rights advocate, Denise Rotheimer. As one might expect in the current ‘#MeToo’ climate, the repercussions were immediate. He was forced to resign as Chairman of the Illinois Senate Executive Committee. And obviously his reputation has suffered.  

What has happened since then is that a special committee set up to examine allegations of sexual misconduct cleared him. What they also found is that the Illinois legislature behaves like a ‘good old boys club’ where that kind of behavior is common. Which makes unsurprising the revelation that long time Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan has over the years tolerated a culture of sexual harassment in his office. 19 complaints have been filed so far.

Senator Silverstein apologized to Ms. Rotheimer for his unprofessional behavior and thereby making her feel uncomfortable. And he has since sought counseling. He has never been accused of any other wrongdoing before or since. I doubt that he ever will be again.

But the damage was done. Some of his past supporters have abandoned him. Like my own ultra-liberal Democratic congresswomen Jan Schakowsky who left him like a rat deserting a sinking ship. She is now supporting his progressive opponent. 

There was even an attempt to invalidate some of the signatures of voters on the petition required to be placed on the ballot. Thankfully that was unsuccessful. Fortunately not everyone has turned on him. 

Ira has, however, retained some support. Including mine. 

Senator Silverstein made a mistake. One for which he has paid dearly. And is still paying for. It can’t be easy to have been accused of sexual harassment - even after being exonerated. Which is why I have spoken up about the injustice and harm to victims of false accusations.  Although relatively rare, it does happen - as it did here. Those accusations can follow you for the rest of your life.  

Why do I support him?  Ira has been an effective legislator on issues that affect the Orthodox Jewish community – which is a major part of his senate district. Unlike his chief rival in the primary who is an avowed progressive with an agenda that does not serve us, Ira, an observant Jew, is a moderate Democrat whose values reflect those of our community.  

One recent example of legislation that benefited us is the bill passed by the Illinois legislature and signed by our Governor, Republican Bruce Rauner. One that supports school choice. The $100 million ‘Invest in Kids Act’  will give up $13,000 in tuition for each child wishing to attend private school. It is available to low and middle income parents through online application form. From YWN, here is how it works: 
The program allows donors to receive a 75% state tax credit for contributions to a scholarship organization, which then uses those funds to award tuition grants to low- and middle-income families on a first-come first-served basis. 
Silverstein’s opponent would very likely not have supported it had he been in his place. Any similar bill that in the future might come up in that vein will surely be opposed by a progressive who will always put welfare of teachers ahead of the welfare of parents and students. Which is probably why the teachers union is supporting him.

If there was ever a time to counter the effects of a false accusation it is now.  Anyone that supports victims’ rights ought to support a victim of a false accusation. They are victims too. It will not only help him; it will not only help Orthodox Jewry; but unlike the agenda of a progressive who values only the underdog, it will help all of us.

That is for example what school choice is all about. The underdog too will benefit if low income parents are given a choice to send their children to a better school than the one their children are forced to attend in their own neighborhood. Spending tax money on those schools only helps the people that teach there. (Although what they do in those schools stretches the definition of the word ‘teaching’.) 

Let our voices be heard tomorrow.

Anyone that knows anything about Chicago politics, knows that Republicans hardly exist. Especially in a district like ours that is overwhelmingly liberal. Voters are not called ‘Lakefront Liberals’ for nothing. This means that the real election takes place in the primary.  

Every vote counts. As large as the Orthodox community in Chicago is, we are by far outnumbered. It therefore behooves all of us who care about the values of Orthodox Judaism  - whether Republican or Democrat, to choose the Democratic ballot and make sure that Ira becomes the Democratic nominee for the senate. That will all but assure his victory in November. If that happens it will be a win for justice; a win for us; and even a win for our liberal neighbors. Whether they realize it or not.