18th District candidate Cho embraces a landslide defeat

Chicago Election 2018
Election signs pepper the sidewalks of Evanston neighborhoods, promoting both state representative candidates, Julie Cho and Robyn Gabel. (Madison Yauger / MEDILL)

By Madison Yauger
Medill Reports

Republican candidate Julie Cho fell short of Democrat incumbent Robyn Gabel on Tuesday, losing the District 18 State Representative election by a current tally of 42 percentage points.

Cho, 47, is a Korean immigrant and mother of three, who ran as a conservative for state representative, but diverged from many of the party’s traditional platforms.

“I grew up in the 18th district, so I didn’t want to work with a fly-by candidate,” said Cho’s campaign manager, Bobby Burns.

One of the larger aspects of Cho’s platform was redistricting reform, which aims to stop politicians from drawing legislative voting boundaries that would directly benefit their own campaigns, also known as gerrymandering.

Burns, 32, explained this concept highlighting how a neighborhood can be divided into two different districts to “dilute” certain populations’ votes, thereby limiting their chances of collectively electing one official.

Joshua Hall, 25, a Cho campaign operations staff member stationed at Haven Middle School in Evanston, handed fliers to voters as they straggled into the voting center.

Joshua Hall, 25, (long coat), a staff member of Julie Cho’s campaign operations staff, hands out fliers outside the Haven Middle School voting center.

“A lot of people ask me ‘Why don’t you work with a Democratic candidate?’ and I tell them I’m an independent at heart,” Hall said. “I won’t have an alliance to one party or another because there’s backlash from the party that dilutes the issues.”

Cho’s opponent and election victor Robyn Gabel, 65, will begin her fourth term in office as state representative.

Gabel’s campaign manager, Christian D. Sorenson, 31, said, “Robyn wants to continue the process of automatic voter registration. She’s a big believer of one person, one vote.”

First-time voter Nolan Robinson, 19, a sophomore from Northwestern University, said, “We’re in a time in our country where a lot of voters are not heard, so I wanted to use my voice and put people in power who will represent my family and me.”

Robinson voted for Gabel.

Chicago Election 2018
The Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center serves as one of the voting centers in Evanston, but shows a rather sparse turnout.

Cho’s other platform issues included commercialization of cannabis to create economic aid in low-income communities, and school safety in light of the prevalent mass shootings in the U.S.

The campaign was not supported by the NRA, but did receive assistance from The House of Republican Organization with filing campaign finance reports.

“This election didn’t even consider a Republican, honestly,” Evanston resident Melissa Brown, 66, said.

“The partisan bickering must stop,” Cho wrote on her campaign website. “Democrats and Republicans have to work together beyond occasional bipartisan bills. We have to stop blaming each other to advance selfish political agendas and share responsibility for the state’s dysfunction.”

Chicago Election 2018
Electioneers talk to voters as they enter the Haven Middle School voting center, and hand them fliers and various materials about initiatives on the ballot.

“I got Julie to commit to running twice,” Burns said. “Even if she loses, it’s not a loss. We’ve got lots of data to use next time, and we’re not going anywhere.”

Following the election results, Cho said, “We did our best. I was pretty much a no-name Republican candidate in one of the bluest areas in the state, and we did what we could. Getting my name out there, and having people talk about our issues, that alone was a success. …This isn’t the end of the conversation.”

Photo at top: Election signs pepper the sidewalks of Evanston neighborhoods, promoting both state representative candidates, Julie Cho and Robyn Gabel. (Madison Yauger/MEDILL)