First reported 4/24/2010 2:39 p.m.

Illinois’s 78th District that includes Oak Park and Austin has a new state representative with ties to both communities.

Camille Lilly, a 1979 graduate of Oak Park and River High School who is an administrator at Loretto Hospital in Austin, was named Saturday to fill Deborah Graham’s seat in the Illinois state legislature.

One of two women among seven applicants vying for the post, Lilly was chosen by a select group of Democratic Party committeemen on Saturday. She received every committee vote but one. Chaired by state Sen. Don Harmon (39th), the group met at the Carleton Hotel in Oak Park that morning to interview candidates before making their choice.

Lilly, a founding member of the Austin Chamber of Commerce and still its volunteer director, also attended Hatch School. Speaking to the panel, she stressed the importance of neighborhood connections and nonstop work toward community goals.

“It’s more than ‘We can.’- We must,” she said.

Graham, who vacated her Illinois General Assembly seat in March to accept a Chicago aldermanic position, was part of Saturday’s committee to select Lilly. The one vote not for Lilly was cast by Tom Cargie of River Forest, who put the name of Ralph Martire, a fellow River Forester, on a proxy ballot that he left with Harmon.

The other five candidates who addressed the panel were Maretta Brown-Miller, Rev. Marshall Hatch, Ted Leverenz, Blake Sercye and Bruce Washington.

The decision came following a two-hour public meeting, during which committeemen heard prepared statements from all seven candidates followed by a brief Q&A with the panel. The part-time, state rep position has an annual salary of nearly $68,000.

Saturday’s committee hearing in a small conference room at the hotel was nearly filled to capacity. The 78th Illinois House district covers a portion of northern Austin and Oak Park, Melrose Park, River Forest, and Stone Park. The seat became vacant when Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Graham alderman of Chicago’s 29th Ward; she succeeded Isaac “Ike” Carothers, who resigned earlier this year after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges

By law, committeemen have the power to make appointments when certain elected offices become vacant, a process normally done behind closed doors. The committee Saturday included state Rep. Karen Yarbrough (7th), former Chicago alderman William J.P. Banks, and 37th Ward Ald. Emma Mitts-28th Ward Ald. Ed Smith voted by proxy through Mitts.

Each candidate was asked about issues ranging from the civil unions bill currently before the state legislature to their thoughts about the environment. In giving Cargie’s proxy vote, Harmon told the committee he had some “latitude” on the vote if a committeeman called for a motion of unanimous vote, which Banks quickly called for.

As for Lilly, she said she plans on voting for a Democratic proposed budget. Lilly added that she’ll resign from the Austin Chamber of Commerce. Tuesday was her first official day on the job in Springfield.

Helen Karakoudas contributed to this story.

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