In the race for the 24th District in the Illinois House, there are three names on the Democratic ballot, but only two are viable candidates. Incumbent three-term state Rep. Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez is being challenged by 27-year-old Little Village resident Robert Reyes.

Our endorsement goes to Robert Reyes, who we believe will be an independent voice in Springfield. Both Reyes and Hernandez list providing greater access to early childhood education programs as a large plank in their platforms, and Hernandez has worked to make sure that funding has remained in the budget.

But we’re troubled by the fact that Hernandez has made education such a strong part of her campaign while supporting and being supported by the very power structure that has undermined a huge high school in her own district, Morton District 201.

During her term in office Morton has been hammered by cutbacks and has suffered a merry-go-round of administrators – not to mention the activities and questionable associations of its board president.

Of course, Hernandez has little control over what happens in that school district, but her choice of allies leads us to believe she isn’t as keen on reforming that institution as we’d like.

When it comes to the biggest issue relating to Illinois’ financial future – how to reform the pension system – we believe Reyes will work to make sure that both public retirees and taxpayers are treated fairly.

Reyes has said in no uncertain terms that the pension equation has to change. In addition to clamping down on those who take advantage of the pension system (Hernandez would also like to close some of the more egregious loopholes), Reyes has stated clearly that new employees need to pay more or have the option to convert their pension funds to a 401(k)-type arrangement.

The biggest difference between the two candidates in our eyes is independence. While Hernandez is experienced and has good working relationships with others in the state house, including the house speaker, she has too many ties that bind with power-brokers such as Michael Madigan (whose political fund, Democratic Majority, has given thousands of dollars in the past month) and the Town of Cicero.

We believe Reyes can provide that independence in addition to working for the residents of the 24th District, which is why he’s getting our endorsement.

The third candidate in the race is a former Chicago police officer named Neftalie Gonzalez, who has been invisible during the campaign. With no website, no campaign fund, no campaigning work and no responses to any press inquiries, Gonzalez is not a credible candidate.

No Republicans filed to run in the March 20 primary.