Alexandra Eidenberg says she is running to take over the 17th District state representative’s post being vacated by Rep. Laura Fine because the State has “reached a point of desperation.”
Ms. Eidenberg, who comes to the campaign from a background in the insurance industry as well as family issues-centered community activism, gives myriad reasons for that desperation.
“The state is not very family-friendly,” she explained. “We’re not business-friendly and we’re not creating good-paying jobs. I grew up in a hard-working family. My dad is a construction business owner and my mom’s a teacher. I remember her being up for hours at night working on lesson plans. We’ve really gotten to this place in Illinois where your work ethic doesn’t speak for how well you can do any longer.”
She added, “I want to take that hard ethic that I was raised on, bring that to Springfield, and be a fighter.”
Ms. Eidenberg, who lives in Wilmette, faces significant competition in the March 20 primary. She is running against Mary Rita Luecke, Candance Chow, Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, and Peter Dagher, but has nevertheless lined up endorsements from House members with whom she has previously been allied in her activism, among them state Reps. Sara Feigenholtz, Ann Williams, and State Sen. Toi Hutchinson.
She first became “passionate” about that activism about five years ago, she said, when she testified before State officials about a bill that would allow pregnant women to ask for certain accommodations in the workplace.
“I was a couple weeks postpartum and drove down to Springfield and was heard by the committee,” she recalled. “I bring a really unique asset to the table – I’m a small business owner who ‘gets’ women’s rights. That’s a really unique juncture. … I said, ‘We have to treat women well. We can’t make them choose between their pregnancy and their job. So often, women are the bread-winner, or single-parents. We can’t make them have to make that decision.”
The bill passed, and the experience inspired Ms. Eidenberg to form an advocacy organization; initially called Mom plus Baby, it’s now known as Women Empowering Women In Local Legislation.
“We focus on family initiatives, so I have a lot of experience writing, proposing and testifying on legislation,” she explained.
Her work in the insurance business also means she has specific ideas about affordable healthcare, an issue vexing every state, she added.
“I do support single-payer [heathcare], but I don’t think we’re there yet,” Ms. Eidenberg said. “I know that with my skill-set and understanding of health insurance, I can bring ideas to the table to move us forward. I always say the Affordable Care Act is the Unaffordable Affordable Care Act, especially with Trump degrading the components, it’s driving the cost up more. In the 17th District, you’re looking at an affluent pocket that’s paying upwards of $2,500 to 3,000 a month for their healthcare, and quite often have a plan that doesn’t have their doctors in network.”
Officials need to look closely at various logistics of the ACA, she added, to make sure that residents are getting adequate coverage at a price they can afford. Ms. Eidenberg predicts a gradual degradation of the ACA’s principal framework, given President Donald Trump’s hostility to the act. So it will be up to State officials to make sure that those components stay in place while controlling for consumer costs.
“I want to make sure that we have things like no pre-existing conditions clauses and no waiting-periods,” Ms. Eidenberg said. “But we need to go towards an ‘a la carte’ model – it’s a thing that I really understand well. We’re in a place where people are buying policies that they don’t need or want. We’re taking the buying power out of the consumer’s hands and saying, ‘This is all there is for you. Here are 10 policies – they’re all garbage, which one do you want? By the way, they’re all expensive, with high deductibles and no one in network.’”
She added, “What the consumer really wants is to be able to see their doctors and to control their out-of-pocket costs. … We need to give the consumer a bit more control now.”
If elected, Ms. Eidenberg also wants to launch what she said will be “difficult conversations” about the State’s deficit and its pension crisis.
“In Illinois, we’re not big spenders,” she explained. “It’s not like we’re spending a ton on public services, but our real problem is the pensions. We really need to have some serious conversations. It’s a combination of raising revenue, and making sure that we’re bringing in new revenue.”
Family-leave is another issue that she has worked on extensively and is passionate about. Ms. Eidenberg said that the issue can be a differentiator in making Illinois more family-friendly than other states.
“A lot of us are in this boat where we are taking care of our parents and are taking care of our kids – we thought the ‘sandwich generation’ was just a moment in time, but it keeps increasing.” she said. “Everyone’s in that generation. We are in these situations where we have to take care of family members, but most of us don’t fall under [the Family Medical Leave Act].”
Ms. Eidenberg envisions the family-leave plan working on a payroll-deduction basis, she said, adding that a third-party would secure and release claims.
“As we know, we have a very serious issue with the State utilizing funds for things they shouldn’t be,” she said. “I want to be sure that those funds wouldn’t go in any other direction, other than to help our State. It comes down to the fact that we can’t have people lose their jobs all the time because their mom is sick. We need to give people the grace that they need.”