In the race to replace state Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson of the 114th House District, LaToya Greenwood, an East St. Louis City Council member and human resources director for the East St. Louis School District, will face Bob Romanik, a radio talk show host known for his sharp criticism of metro-east politicians and ties to strip clubs.
Greenwood, 42, is a Democrat supported by the St. Clair County Democratic Central Committee while Romanik, 67, is running as a Republican but does not have the support of the St. Clair County Republican Party.
The 114th District covers a U-shaped area that goes from East St. Louis to Scott Air Force Base. It wraps around Belleville and takes in areas of Centreville, Freeburg, Lebanon, Millstadt, O’Fallon and Smithton. The election is Nov. 8.
Jackson, D-East St. Louis, said last year that he would not seek re-election to the office he’s been in since 2009.
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Here’s a closer look at the two candidates vying to replace Jackson:
LaToya Greenwood said if she’s elected, she would “fight against Gov. (Bruce) Rauner’s cuts to the much needed” social services.
“I want to be a voice for the least of those among us within this district, our elderly and our children,” Greenwood said during a candidate forum sponsored by the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce at Belleville West High School last week.
“I want to be a state representative for the 114th District to continue to provide open and honest communication to the people of this district,” she said in her final statement at the forum.
“I want to focus on the issues … that we’re all concerned about regardless of race, age, gender economic background and those include education for our children, public safety, job creation and economic development.”
I want to be a voice for the least of those among us within this district, our elderly and our children.
Greenwood also said: “I do not believe in taking away pensions from individuals who have earned their pension rights. Those should not be cut or reduced in any form because those are earned rights for our retirees.”
In response to a question from the forum moderator about how to improve the state’s economy and how Illinois could be more competitive with other states, Greenwood said she didn’t “know what’s going on currently in the state” but that the state could “maybe form a task force to look at ways to attract and maintain the current businesses that we have.”
“Those are things that once I get to Springfield I’ll be able to look into further on the different programmings and different committees that they have,” she said.
Greenwood has been the director of human resources for East St. Louis School District 189 since 2011. Her father, Lonzo Greenwood, is the president of the East St. Louis School District 189 Board of Education and leader of the East St. Louis Democratic Club.
Greenwood, who lives in East St. Louis, returned a questionnaire the News-Democrat sent to candidates but she did not fulfill multiple requests for an interview.
“My No. 1 goal will be to effectively communicate with my constituents so that I can be a strong voice in Springfield for the needs of our district,” she wrote in her questionnaire response. “I understand that our state is facing serious challenges and it is important that we work together for solutions. In order to help improve the quality of life in our communities, I will be a strong advocate for job growth in our area while fighting to bring back funding from Springfield.”
My No. 1 one goal will be to effectively communicate with my constituents so that I can be a strong voice in Springfield for the needs of our district.
Greenwood has served on the East St. Louis City Council since 2011.
Brad Cole, executive director of the Illinois Municipal League, said people elected to municipal offices are allowed serve in the General Assembly and occasionally this occurs.
A campaign flier for Greenwood highlights the felony convictions of Romanik but Greenwood also has a court case that made headlines.
Greenwood was charged with disorderly conduct after she and a male friend got into an argument with a Best Buy employee on Dec. 19, 2012, at the Fairview Heights store. St. Clair County court records show the misdemeanor charge was dismissed after she completed community service, wrote a letter of apology to the Best Buy employee and had her bond amount of $120 forwarded to a charity.
Reports filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections this year by two fundraising committees show that Greenwood has raised at least $70,612 as of Oct. 17.
The donations include $10,000 from the Illinois Political Action Committee for Education, which is an arm of the Illinois Education Association, a union for teachers, and $5,000 from AFSCME Illinois Council No. 31 Political Action Committee in Springfield. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union represents state workers.
Greenwood has spent at least $44,171 on her campaign this year as of Sept. 30.
Bob Romanik said his lack of party ties would help him if he is elected.
“The No. 1 issue I see is this district has never had independent representation,” Romanik said in an interview. “I’m going to be an independent.
“If it’s something good that the Republicans offer for my district and my bosses, my supporters want it, I’ll vote for it. If there’s something the Democrats have and it is good for this state and my district and my voters want it, I’ll vote for it,” he said.
Romanik, who lives near Belleville, vowed to oppose any tax increases.
The No. 1 issue I see is this district has never had independent representation. I’m going to be an independent.
“I will never, ever vote for a tax increase for any reason,” he said. “We need to cut the spending. We need to get away from giving every politician’s family and friends jobs.”
“I’m going up to Springfield representing the people of the 114th Legislative District, not the Republican Party, not the Democratic Party, not any political party but the people of the 114th Legislative District, my bosses. I’m running to destroy the political culture of corruption, not just in St. Clair County, throughout the state.”
Romanik, who is the host of an hour long talk show at 10 a.m. Monday through Friday on KQQZ 1190AM and calls himself “The Grim Reaper of Radio,” said if he is elected he would do remote broadcasts from Springfield on the days the General Assembly is in session.
The former police chief of Washington Park also said he would not take a salary or benefits if he is elected as state representative.
“I’m running to represent the people for the love of my country and community, not the love of money,” he said. “I will not take any money from the taxpayers as long as I’m their state representative.”
Romanik has links to two federal court cases that have resulted in dozens of news articles since the 1990s.
In 1997, he pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice in the investigation of racketeer Tom Venezia and Belleville lawyer Amiel Cueto. He lied 150 times to a grand jury investigating Venezia’s $48 million video gambling ring and Cueto, who was Venezia’s attorney and business partner. Venezia died in 2005 in a murder-suicide when he killed a 21-year-old woman and then himself. Cueto died in 2012.
Romanik pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud in 1999. He admitted to defrauding two banks of about $1.5 million to build topless nightclubs in the metro-east. He was ordered to serve 20 months in federal prison.
I want to let the people know I don’t talk like a politician. I don’t dress like a politician and I don’t act like a politician because I’m not a politician.
Romanik said he currently owns the land that has one strip club and denies ownership of any clubs.
“I’ve never, ever owned a strip club,” he said. “I own property that adult entertainment’s on.”
“I want to say first and foremost, I’ve made mistakes in my life,” Romanik said in reference to his convictions. “I talk about them constantly. I’m not a perfect person. So if someone’s looking for a perfect candidate, please do not vote for me, because I don’t deserve your vote.”
“I want to let the people know I don’t talk like a politician,” Romanik said. “I don’t dress like a politician and I don’t act like a politician because I’m not a politician.”
“I’m a flawed individual who came up the hard way. I fought to better myself and I want to fight to better my country and fellow man.”
Romanik, who did not attend the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce candidate forum last week, has put $2.125 million of his own money into his campaign committee, according to Illinois State Board of Elections records. He is not taking donations from others.
“Why would I ask people to give me money when times are hard on all families?”
As of Sept. 30, he had spent $114,356, with most of the expenditures going to campaign workers in East St. Louis, where residents traditionally vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates.
Follow the candidates
Here’s where you get more information online about the two candidates for the 114th House District, which covers a U-shaped area that goes from East St. Louis to Scott Air Force Base. It wraps around Belleville and takes in areas of Centreville, Freeburg, Lebanon, Millstadt, O’Fallon and Smithton. The election is Nov. 8.