Opinions Editor

Jim Dey is a staff writer for The News-Gazette. His email is jdey@news-gazette.com.

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Illinois Democrats targeted Republican state Rep. Deanne Mazzochi for termination with extreme prejudice — in other words, political oblivion.

But the Elmhurst Republican has decided she won’t retire quietly to the sidelines. In fact, once she makes up her mind which direction she’ll go, Mazzochi said she plans to fight hard to maintain her place in the political arena.

“I certainly will be a candidate in the 2022 elections,” said Mazzochi, an Illinois House member since 2018.

The 48-year-old lawyer and mother of two is one of a number of House Republicans who came out on the wrong end of the new state House and Senate district maps drawn by super-majority Democrats.

By the time Democrats finished slicing and dicing Mazzochi’s current 47th district, it was no longer her district. Instead, Democrats squeezed her into what is now the 46th district, turf so unfriendly to Republicans that current Democratic incumbent Rep. Deb Conroy should have no trouble winning re-election ad nauseum beginning in November 2022.

Theories differ as to why Democrats want Mazzochi out of the House.

In his political newsletter — the Illinoize — Patrick Pfingsten suggested Mazzochi was put on the Democrats’ hit list because she vigorously questioned Democratic proposals during debates. Democrats apparently found it embarrassing.

State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said Democrats — like Republicans when the tables are turned — targeted some Republicans, including Mazzochi, because they perceive them as talented and want to eliminate political competition.

Whatever the motive, Democratic House Speaker Chris Welch and the Democrats acknowledged they obliterated Mazzochi’s 47th district to gain a political advantage.

House Resolution 359 states the new 45th district — Mazzocchi’s current 47th — “was drawn for political reasons to assist with increasing the political advantage for neighboring districts.”

“They cut my precinct in half so that I am in the current 46th (district),” said Mazzochi.

However, she doesn’t consider the redistricting issue closed. Illinois Republicans and a Hispanic group are challenging the maps in Chicago federal court. They allege they are improperly and unlawfully drawn because Democrats used unreliable population estimates rather than wait for delayed U.S. Census numbers.

“There are lot of ways the maps can shake out,” she said.

Regardless of what happens, however, Mazzochi is running — for something. Although she recently contributed $150,000 to her campaign fund, Mazzochi said she doesn’t have “an established timeline” to make a decision on how or where to proceed because the situation is so fluid.

Mazzochi brings an unusual background to political life, one that explains why Democrats wish her the worst. She has undergraduate degrees in political science and chemistry. Although Mazzochi first thought she’d become a physician, she instead went to law school.

She’s a founding member of her law firm, which specializes in “life sciences law, particularly patent law in the medical/pharmaceutical arena.”

The law firm’s website states Mazzochi’s main practice areas include “small molecules and biologics.”

Mazzochi first became involved in government when she ran for a board of trustees seat at the College of DuPage. Inquiries into college spending practices by OpentheBooks.com — Andy Andrzejewski’s watchdog group — and The Chicago Tribune raised serious questions about the quality of board oversight.

Reformers challenged board incumbents, winning a resounding victory. Mazzochi, who ultimately became the board’s chairwoman, characterized herself as part of the “cleanup crew.”

“Usually, (serving on a community college board) is not how you start life in politics,” said Mazzochi.

Nonetheless, she was appointed to fill a vacant House seat in 2018 and elected in her own right in 2020.

The question, of course, is why someone of Mazzochi’s background wanted to be a House member. That’s what former Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan wanted to know when they were first introduced.

“What are you doing here?” the veteran politician inquired.

Her answer?

“I think the people of Illinois are well worth fighting for, and they have not been served well (by their elected officials),” she said.

Mazzochi suggested voters are “fed up” with a “permanent political class” that views government as its personal playpen, making important decisions for purely political reasons.

Past election results don’t support her assertion that people are tired of Illinois’ dysfunctional status quo. But Mazzochi indicated she’s determined to prove her point and has “lots of options” for how to do so.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at jdey@news-gazette.com or 217-393-8251.

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