Burr Ridge Mayor Condemns ‘Woke Politics’ In Congress Run

BURR RIDGE, IL – Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso announced Thursday that he is running for Congress, calling himself a “reasonable” Republican who is open to compromise.

He is running in the 6th Congressional District, which includes parts of Cook and DuPage counties. The seat is held by Democrat Sean Casten. Because of redistricting, Marie Newman, a La Grange Democrat who represents the 3rd District, plans to run against Casten in the party’s primary.

On the GOP side, Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau recently announced he was running. The Democratic and Republican primaries are next June.

Grasso, a lawyer, has been elected four times as mayor, serving from 2005 to 2012 and since 2019. He also has served on the DuPage County Board for six years.

In 2018, Grasso ran for the Republican nomination against Erika Harold, but she took 60 percent of the vote. She later lost to Democrat Kwame Raoul.

In a six-minute Facebook video Thursday, Grasso, who recently shaved his pandemic-era beard, described himself as fiscally responsible. He said he was someone who views government as the problem, not the solution.

In his speech, he focused on combatting crime and giving parents control of schools, a combination of issues that recently propelled Glenn Youngkin to victory in the Virginia’s governor’s race.

“I stood with our police during the summer of 2020 when many were calling to defund them,” Grasso said. “Too often we are letting woke politics override common sense and put us in danger. Defunding police is a formula for disaster.”

Grasso, who said he was the first in his family to get a college degree, said education is the key for society. Now, he noted, the state’s schools are mainly funded by property taxes, which he said are too high and driving people out of Illinois.

“That formula is not sustainable,” the mayor said. “Education is the great doorway to success. It has to be available to all equally. Great schools have to be everywhere and run by parents. I will advocate for more federal funding for public grammar and high schools. More funding would lead to lower property taxes. And, of course, public schools should be run by parents."

Grasso also hit on another favorite target of Illinois Republicans, the governor’s pandemic mandates.

“When COVID-19 hit us hard, I opposed the governor’s draconian closures of our small businesses throughout the state,” Grasso said. “In Burr Ridge, we kept our businesses open with our highly publicized grant program. We also provided grants for our small shops to make payroll and stay open. We did not lose a single restaurant, and only one store closed."

Under his leadership, Grasso said Burr Ridge created a thriving downtown and built a state-of-the-art police facility. He also said he was among the first local elected officials to challenge and condemn Sterigenics, which was blamed for pollution. As a result, he said, officials were able to close the plant.

Republicans, Grasso said, need a seat at the table to make positive changes in government.

“Without that seat, we cannot convince others to respect our values and goals,” he said. “To win a seat at the table, we need to be open to consensus, collaboration and compromise. I use these three C’s to get results for the overall good."

In his video, Grasso did not mention former President Donald Trump, who is seen as having much influence over next year’s Republican races. Grasso did not say whether he believed Democrats stole the 2020 election.

Grasso has not returned messages for comment.

In the 2019 mayoral election, Grasso won in a landslide over then-Trustee Zach Mottl with two-thirds of the vote. Mottl remained a thorn in the mayor’s side until April of this year, when Grasso-aligned candidates defeated him in the village election.

Mottl recently filed a complaint with federal prosecutors, alleging Grasso and his allies have given Filippo “Gigi”Rovito breaks that others do not get. Grasso has denied the allegations.

In November 2017, Rovito gave $5,000 to Grasso's campaign, according to state Board of Election records. But Grasso returned the money a month later. This was six days after the CBS affiliate in Champaign ran a story headlined, "Shady campaign cash flows to GOP candidate," which involved, in part, Rovito's donation to Grasso.

In response to questions from Patch, Grasso has declined to say why he returned the money.

Grasso has repeatedly accused Patch of being unfair in its coverage of Burr Ridge village government.

This article originally appeared on the Burr Ridge Patch