Democratic Party chairman and the newly appointed state senator are fellow Joliet firefighters, union officers

Central Committee Chairman Schuster says he did not have sole say in filling Senate vacancy

Election 2024
The Joliet Fire Department Administrative Offices in downtown in Joliet.

The Democratic party chair who ultimately had the final say in appointing Eric Mattson to the 43rd District state Senate vacancy is a fellow firefighter and union officer with him.

Mattson, who also is running in the June 28 primary election for the Senate seat, was appointed to the position Friday after former Sen. John Connor resigned a week ago.

Mattson is a Joliet Fire Department captain and president of Joliet Fire Officers Local 2399.

Eric Mattson, a captain in the Joliet Fire Department, is circulating petitions as a Democratic candidate in the June 28, 2022 primary for the 43rd District state senate seat.

Burke Schuster, chairman of the Will County Democratic Central Committee, also is an officer in the Joliet Fire Department and vice president of Joliet Fire Officers Local 2399.

Schuster and DuPage County Chair Ken Mejia-Beal appointed Mattson in a weighted vote that gave Schuster a bigger say because of the larger section of the 43rd District that lies within Will County.

The two picked Mattson on Friday after an interview process that included an advisory panel’s recommendation, which Schuster said was part of the process to avoid an appearance that he alone was deciding who got the job.

“That’s why I had the advisory committee,” Schuster said. “Those five recommended the appointment to me.”

Mattson was among five applicants interviewed for the Senate seat.

His opponent in the June 28 primary, Rachel Ventura, did not apply. Ventura put out a statement after Connor’s resignation on April 29 saying the appointment should go to someone who was not a candidate in the election and also stating that she believed the selection process would be skewed in favor of Mattson.

Rachel Ventura at the Will County board meeting at the Will County Office Building. Thursday, Mar. 17, 2022, in Joliet.

“I think the party is doing everything they can to elect their candidate,” Ventura said Friday after Mattson was put in the Senate seat.

Ventura, a member of the Will County Board, did not point to Schuster’s role in the process.

“I really wish Rachel would have put in,” Schuster said. “I don’t know how to give someone a chance if they don’t put in.”

Schuster said he was aware that his association with Mattson could become an issue.

“The process could have been myself and Ken Mejia-Beal only doing the vote,” he said. “That’s all that the state requires. I knew what the optics looked like. That’s why I did x, y and z.”

Schuster referred to the creation of the advisory panel.

The panel of Democratic precinct committeemen in the 43rd District included Michelle Stiff from Joliet Township, Lorraine Guerrero-Neumayer from Troy Township, Ron Alberico from Lockport Township, Katie Hunt from Jackson Township, and Norman Brown from DuPage Township.