I’ve lived in Downers Grove for 21 years, and I’ve watched community leaders come and go. Some have been good and some, well, not so much, and we’ve survived them all with our dignity and humor mostly intact. True, there’s always been a small group of residents who are more interested in spreading hate than in productive, pragmatic governance, but the good people of Downers Grove have never been swayed by their bile.
But this election cycle has me worried. The sheer volume of despicable rhetoric being spewn by one of the candidates in the Republican primary for the 81st House seat is overwhelming. Keith Matune, a resident of our fair village, is running against incumbent Ron Sandack and it’s the nastiest race I’ve ever seen in Downers Grove – and we’ve had some knock-down, drag-out fights in past elections. Matune has taken a controversial vote made by Sandack to allow gay marriage in Illinois and made it the central issue in his campaign of hate and divisiveness. The flyers Matune’s sponsor, Dan Proft of Cicero, have mailed out have been just this side of criminal. They’re nasty. They’re repulsive and just plain mean.
Do those flyers really reflect the opinions of the residents of Downers Grove? I don’t think so. I hope not. The people of Downers Grove have always come out on the side of compassion and kindness, not bigotry. I just can’t believe that my fellow residents are as hateful as those flyers seem to think they are.
And let’s talk about Keith Matune, shall we? He has been arrested at least- AT LEAST- 3 times and convicted twice. Actually, we don’t know how many times he’s been convicted, because he keeps pleading the cases against him down to misdemeanors and those aren’t reported to a national database. And we don’t know about his past from Matune himself, because he’s lied over and over and over about it. He’s lied about being arrested- until someone found the mugshot and DuPage County records about it. He lied about the check he says he bounced- he says it was only $150, but it was $500 (a check to a criminal defense attorney!)- and he keeps repeating that lie even in the face of court documents that say otherwise.
He was arrested for public indecency, resisting arrest and public intoxication and pled down to just the indecency charge. He was sentenced to one year in jail- ONE YEAR!- but it was suspended for a year of probation. Not that long thereafter, he was arrested for breaking into a girl’s dorm….when he was 25. Twenty-five! And he lied and continues to lie about those arrests. They weren’t expunged, like he told the Daily Herald, because I called the Clerk of the Court in Tippiecanoe County, Indiana and asked that very question.
He lied on his application to be a teacher, which is another misdemeanor and could cost him his job. He lies all the time about all of these things and can’t seem to find the strength to tell the truth.
I refuse to believe that the good residents of my beloved Downers Grove want to elect to public service a man who can’t tell the truth.
It is a hard and humbling thing to admit your mistakes. It’s embarrassing to admit failure and it must be horrific to admit a lie that could cost you your career. But that’s the choice Matune made when he chose to lie; those are his consequences to face.
Maybe Matune learned not to do those types of criminal acts after being arrested so many times. He may be a good citizen now who has contributed to society but he has done so on a lie. It’s all false. Maybe we’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe we’d like to say, he was young and made a mistake. But Matune gave up that option, gave up that grace, when he lied over and over to all of us, including the students with whom he was entrusted to teach.
So who are we, Downers Grove? Are we going to elect a man who seems incapable of telling the truth and is filled with bigotry and hate? I hope not.
We’ll find out on March 18 if we are a community of hate and lies, or of pragmatic governance; of bigotry or of acceptance. I’m betting on all of us to do the right thing.