Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, right, has thrown her support to Robyn Gabel in Ms Gabel’s bid for the 18th District legislative seat, once held by Ms. Schakowsky and to be vacated by Julie Hamos at the end of the current term. Photo courtesy of the Gabel campaign

The only woman in the five-candidate lineup to fill the 18th Legislative District seat being vacated by Julie Hamos is 14-year Evanston resident Robyn Gabel. As executive director of Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition, which promotes maternal, child and public health, Ms. Gabel says she has spent “considerable time” in Springfield and played the role of advocate, and I feel that as a state legislator I could do even more.”

Her organization WHAT has several coalitions: the coalition to expand Medicaid to children and pregnant women, the Chicago-are immunization campaign and the Illinois coalition for school health centers.

Ms. Gabel said her priorities, should she be elected state representative from the 18th district, would be health care and education.

“I will continue to work on public health care and social-service issues,” she said. One example she gave was ensuring that developmentally delayed students get the services they need.

In addition, education funding must change but it must be fair throughout the state, she said. “There must be equity,” she said, but emphasized that education funding must not decrease in any area as a result of the change. “I’m a believer that there is a solution to every problem,” Ms. Gabel said.

Ms. Gabel served on the task force that established Kidcare (the insurance program that covers all children in Illinois not covered by other policies). “The government can run programs efficiently,” she said.

While acknowledging that what the state can do in the area of health-care reform depends largely upon what happens in Washington, D.C., Ms. Gabel said she would push for a requirement that health-care insurers spend on patient health-care at least 80 percent of the aggregate health-care premiums they collect.

“In Illinois there is no limit to what percentage of insurance premiums must go to health care,” Ms Gabel said.

The greatest challenge facing the State of Illinois, Ms Gabel said, is the budget. “The needs are getting greater and the pie is getting smaller,” she said. In addition, “The climate in Springfield is very difficult because of the budget.”

A second challenge, almost on par, she said, is to rebuild “trust in the government.”

As a state representative, Ms. Gabel said she would seek to build consensus on thorny issues. “I’m a coalition-builder,” she said. “I’m a bridge-builder as well as a fighter. I stand up for what I believe in.” She added, “My philosophy is that it’s important to hear from a lot of different people. More information leads to better decisions.”

Ms. Gabel adds, “I have seen that if you’re clear about what you want, you can do things that will benefit the state.”