Evanston is set to play a larger role in Springfield following state Rep. Robyn Gabel’s (D-18th) selection as House Majority Leader.
Gabel has been a state representative since 2010, and will head Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch’s (D-7th) leadership team alongside Speaker Pro Tempore and Chief Budgeteer state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-92nd). Gabel represents most of Evanston along with Kenilworth, Winnetka and parts of Chicago and Wilmette following redistricting after the 2020 census.
In an interview with the Evanston RoundTable Monday, Gabel said she will direct legislation from across the Democratic caucus as part of her new role.
“One of my main responsibilities is to work with our members,” Gabel said. “Make sure that we’re helping our members get the bills that are important to them and the bills that are important to their constituents across the finish line.”
Gabel said she will also head the House’s Medicaid budget working group, which she said takes up about a quarter of the state’s annual budget.
She laid out some of her biggest goals for the new session in a Jan. 11 press release, including electrifying the transportation sector (e.g. adding more EV power stations), protecting reproductive rights and expanding access to affordable health care. During the interview she also highlighted investing in workforce development programs as a priority, and said the work done by Mayor’s Employer Advisory Council Chair Neil Gambow at Evanston Township High School could serve as a model for the rest of the state.
Gabel said that although her role in legislation will change as Majority Leader, she won’t be giving any less attention to issues raised by constituents in Evanston and throughout her district.
“I won’t necessarily be the main sponsor on some of the bills that I had been, but I certainly will help other people take on these issues,” Gabel said. “I think that I’ll be a big asset to a lot of our issues. I’m sure that advocacy groups that have already been coming to me over the years will not suddenly stop.”
Gabel ended the interview with an olive branch across the aisle to the House Republican Caucus, which dropped to 40 members out of 118 following the 2022 midterm elections.
“We’re going to have new leadership in the House on the Republican side this year, and we are really hoping that this will bring more opportunities for us to work together,” Gabel said. “I believe that it’s important to work as a whole for the General Assembly, and we’ll be trying to tone down the rhetoric and get to work with the Republicans when we can.”
The city will hold a reception for Gabel starting at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Levy Senior Center to celebrate her appointment as Majority Leader. The event will be free and open to the public.
Yup, new majority leader Robyn Gabel (D-18) represents _most_ of Evanston and a tiny bit of Chicago, plus Wilmette and lake-shore towns northward a bit past Tower Road. However, the 2020 gerrymander plopped part of the 6th ward (west of McDaniel Avenue) into Dist. 17, Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, which ziggitty-zags from mid-Skokie to about Buffalo Grove. The maps available online are truly horrid; the official Illinois Blue Book, for example, shows none of the boundaries. Others (e.g. https://www.illinoispolicy.org/maps/illinois-house/) require zooming, scrolling, squinting, etc. When I was shifted from reporting Evanston to reporting-editing in the far west ‘burbs, I got mini-locator maps made showing nearly all the boundaries of each of our dozen-plus districts. Pioneer press was still using updated versions of them 20 years later. Perhaps RoundTable could put an Evanston ward map and the (four, is it now?) legislative and congressional maps online. They could be used with an easy URL for each to be linked from almost any legislative article, especially those that have implications outside Evanston. (Personal note: In 2010, our part of southeast Evanston got mandered into an otherwise all-Chicago district. We heard from our reps once, if/when they faced a primary contest. We moved to northwest Evanston and after the 2020 census got gerried into the 17th. Oh, ell, we-all are lucky not to have the town chopped in half, eh? We got fliers from the 17th twice in fall 2022. Maybe someone at Medill would find or create emaps good for the rest of this decade?