Republican Jonathan Ojeda is taking on Democrat incumbent state Rep. Dave Vella in Illinois’ 68th legislative district, which encompasses much of Rockford’s east side as well as Loves Park, Machesney Park and sections of Belvidere and Boone County.  

Vella is a Rockford native who is running for his second two-year term in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Ojeda is a Belvidere native and is running for public office for the first time.

State representatives in Illinois serve two-year terms and are paid a salary of $70,645 a year.

Ahead of the Nov. 8 election, we asked the candidates what the most pressing issues they’ll face if elected and what they would do about them. Here is a closer look at the candidates.

Dave Vella

Democrat 68th District State Rep. Dave Vella is seeking a second term in office.

Age: 52

Family: I have been married to my wife Michelle for 22 years and have two children: Ryan, who is a machinist and Grace, who is a sophomore at University of Wisconsin.

Hometown: Rockford

Education: Rockford Public Schools through eighth grade, Boylan Catholic High School, Augustana College, Northern Illinois University College of Law

Profession: I am a full-time legislator, but before that I was a defense attorney for 25 years.

Memberships and associations: Illinois State Bar Association, Winnebago County Bar Association, Holy Name Society

Political experience: Rockford Township Trustee from 2017 through 2021, state representative for the 68th District since 2021.

Endorsements: Illinois State Troopers Lodge #41, Fraternal Order of Police, Illinois Sheriffs Association, Associated Firefighters of Illinois, ABATE of Illinois, Illinois Farm Bureau, AFSCME, Northwestern IL Building Trades and its Member Unions, Illinois Education Association, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois Retired Teachers, Illinois AFL-CIO and the Sierra Club

What are the top three issues in your race and how do you plan to address them if elected?

  1. Education: I have made sure that our schools are preparing our kids for life after graduation. I have brought hundreds of thousands of dollars back to our local schools to fund vocational education that gives our kids real, hands-on training. It also gives them a career path if they decide college is not what’s best for them.
  2. Jobs: If we want our young people to stay in our community, we need good jobs for them to work. I spent every day of the last two years in office selling the Stateline to corporations and small businesses. I passed multiple bills to support jobs in the Stateline, including keeping the Byron Nuclear Plant open and reinvesting in the Belvidere Assembly Plant, which will provide thousands of good paying jobs.
  3. Public safety: People need to feel safe and comfortable in our community if they’re going to raise their families here. I supported new funding for solving crime and incentives for people from our community to serve as police officers. I am supported by first responders because I am committed to smart, common sense public safety policy.

Jonathan Ojeda

Republican Jonathan Ojeda is a candidate for 68th District Illinois State Representative.

Age: 32

Family: Married to Hilary Ojeda. The couple has one daughter, Olivia.

Hometown: Belvidere

Education: Community College of the Air Force

Profession: Firefighter

Memberships and associations: AFSCME union steward, SEIU union steward, Vice President of Northern American Hispanic Assembly

Political experience: None

Endorsements: U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, state Rep. Joe Sosnowski, state Sen. Dave Syverson, former state Rep. John Cabello, Boone County Treasurer Curt Newport

What are the top three issues in your race and how do you plan to address them if elected?

  1. Crime: In order to address crime, we need repeal the Safe-T Act so we can restore cash bail and keep dangerous criminals off the street. We need to give police officers the tools, training and funding they need to do their jobs.
  2. Economy: A strong economy starts with encouraging investment across Illinois and building a strong workforce. I support increasing education opportunities through our community colleges as well as building more programs to promote the skilled trades. I oppose tax hikes and want to keep Illinois safe and affordable for families and businesses.
  3. Corruption: If elected state representative, I would push for giving the Legislative Inspector General more autonomy for investigating complaints against lawmakers by allowing the office to issue subpoenas independently of the Legislative Ethics Commission. We must remove the stain of corruption from Illinois politics.

Ken DeCoster covers business news and features. Contact him at 815-987-1391, or @DeCosterKen. 

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