Kenneth M. Kozlar is running for 2nd District State Representative against incumbent Theresa Mah and candidate Bobby Martinez in the March 17 primary election.

Kozlar Pitches Alternative Vision, Neighborhood Connections in 2nd District Race

Published March 10, 2020

Illinois 2nd District state representative candidate Kenneth M. Kozlar sat down with the McKinley Park News recently to introduce himself to the neighborhood via an interview with Publisher Justin Kerr (whose questions appear in bold text below). Kozlar is running in the Democratic primary election on Tuesday, March 17, against incumbent State Representative Theresa Mah and fellow challenger Bobby Martinez. The interview has been edited for succinctness and relevance.

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You are a Bridgeport guy, originally?

Born there May 8, 1953. Actually, in Armour Square, which is a little pocket on the map next to Bridgeport. I moved to Bridgeport in our current address when we got married on October 14, 1978.

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Is this your first time running for public office? Have you been involved in politics before?

I’ve been involved in politics for nine years. I don’t know if you remember a young man who ran against James Balcer in 2011: That was my son, John Kenneth Kozlar. Then he ran against Thompson and got him in a runoff, which was a shock to everybody. Then he lost the regular runoff election. Then he ran again for mayor just a year ago.

So I’ve been in the dugout for the last nine years, and he says, “Dad, I’m going to medical school. This is going to be your Superbowl.” When I go to the Dunkin Donuts on 31st and Halsted, guys come in and say, “Ken, it’s not only your Superbowl, because you’ve been a baseball coach forever. You’re in the batters box now.” I love that how my people there just pour out their hearts to my family.

So a lot of community support led you to run for office?

They have been asking me to run for years. “Come on, your son’s a young guy, he’s in college.” [My mother], who passed away in 2010, was one of these grandmothers, senior citizens. They said that if his mother was alive, it would have put him over the top. And they still remember him as Frannie’s grandson, and Kenny as the son.

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What do you see as the top issues affecting the McKinley Park neighborhood?

Me being the representative of the second district, I have to treat all the constituents equally. I don’t want to show any partiality to, obviously, Bridgeport where I came from. Let’s approach the issues you have. I will work in conjunction with all six aldermen on the needs of their communities and especially how you want me as constituents to represent them in Springfield.

There were several issues that the incumbent voted on that I would be strongly against. The first thing that bothers me as a father and grandfather is that she voted no against the bill to increase the fines of a driver going around a school bus with a stop arm extended, from $150 bucks to $300 bucks. She voted no. She was one of the sixteen that voted no. What I would do, I would propose a bill that would raise the fine from $300 to $500 with a six-month probation period. Second offense, let’s go $1,000 and suspend their license for a year.

She also voted no to authorize police to use drones for surveillance. That bill passed 74 to 35. She was one of the ones who voted no. Look, our first responders need every advantage they could get when they’re dealing with criminals and their lives are in their hands to protect us.

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She also voted yes to eliminate electronic monitoring from people who have completed their state prison sentences. Well, I would have voted no because after they complete their term, you should give a little bit more probation, I’m saying for at least two more years. I know everyone needs a second chance, but let’s take it one step further to go at least two more years.

The one that’s a touchy subject is the abortion issue. Look, I’m a Roman Catholic. God gives life, god takes it away. She was a supporter of the bill to have abortions [HB 2495 – The Reproductive Health Act]. I am against that.

It sounds like a lot of the difference between you and Theresa Mah is focused on criminal justice issues. Is there anything you’d like to note that distinguishes your campaign from the other candidate in the race (Bobby Martinez)?

Remember, I have the lifelong experiences, being 66 years old. I’ve been a baseball coach, father, grandfather and volunteered in the neighborhood. People relate to this: An average guy.

What’s the best way forward in terms of finding a balance between the neighborhood’s industrial interests and businesses, and residents?

Like I said to the Sun-Times, I want to read everything that was put out from day one.

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Another area of intense interest to the McKinley Park neighborhood is immigration, since we’re mostly Latino, with lots of Chinese-Americans and immigrants too. Is there anything you’d like to share on your policies toward immigration?

I’m a thousand percent in favor of immigration issues. We are a sanctuary city. Let them come to the land of opportunity like my grandparents did back in the early 1900s. I’m for people. If they opened up this country and their arms for my ancestors, let’s open up for everybody. This is the land of opportunity.

I am going to be for the people 100 percent of my time. I’m not going to take any outside interest, instead spending my time walking the district.

Does your campaign have any distinctive stances or operations you’d like to talk about, such as limits on accepting corporate contributions, or not accepting contributions from specific industries?

I am my own man. If somebody wants to donate money for the district, I’m going to put it back into the district. Right now, I’ve been in it to win it, in it to win it since the middle of June. Nobody’s come up with a dollar. It’s all family, what we’re doing.

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Although better than many areas, the McKinley Park neighborhood has some issues with entrenched gangs. With your focus on criminal justice, do you have any thoughts or measures on approaches to this?

You have a lot of two flats like we have in Bridgeport. If you go to the landlord and sign a contract, you’re hoping in good faith that that tenant is going to take care of their property, have control of their kids. Now, when I was growing up, dad had that two-inch belt, and if you didn’t fall in line … You’d see that belt, and you’d know that my parents raised me the right way.

Yes, there’s gangs everywhere: rich, poor, McKinley Park, Pilsen. This is a new way of life recently. We always had gangs, but this is out of control. But why is that? The kids need jobs, they need guidance, trade schools. Like I said earlier, I will work with all six aldermen to see what I can do in the state to help.

More information about Kenneth Kozlar and his campaign for state representative are available on his website at Early Voting for the March 17 Illinois primary election takes place at the McKinley Park field house through Monday, March 16, with the primary election taking place on Tuesday, March 17.

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