Two incumbents square off in this hotly contested race.
*Click on above audio for full candidate interviews.
First interview is with Dave Syverson.
Second interview is with Christine Johnson.
One of the more high-profile legislative races in Illinois' primary election is the Republican battle for Illinois’ 35th Senate district. The contest features two incumbents. One is a veteran state lawmaker, and the other is a “newcomer” in Springfield.
This newly-drawn district wraps around the Rockford metro-area and stretches down through Sycamore and parts of DeKalb before ending just south of Interstate 88. That has longtime Republican state Senator Dave Syverson campaigning in some new territory.
For nearly two decades, Syverson has represented the 34th district, which is Rockford-centric. But, with Democrats controlling the redistricting process, Syverson was pushed into the new 35th, forcing him to run against fellow Republican Senator Christine Johnson.
Johnson has been in the Illinois Senate for a little more than a year. She was appointed to replace retiring Senator Brad Burzynski in the current 35th, which covers parts of the Rockford area, but includes a wider range of territory surrounding DeKalb.
Johnson says her background dealing with finances makes her the ideal candidate:
“I think what sets me apart is my fiscal conservatism and my years as DeKalb County Treasurer,” she explained. “I think you need to send someone to Springfieldwho understands money and budgeting, and who certainly has not been part of the problem.
“I think when you have an opponent who’s been there for almost 20 years, that’s just too long.”
Syverson says his experience and priorities put him in a good position to help local economies grow:
“I’m a businessman,” he said. “I’m a citizen legislator. I come with a background saying we can grow out of the economic mess that we’re in. We need to take a business approach when it comes to balancing our budget and creating jobs.”
When it comes to fixing Illinois’ troubled budget, both candidates say state government needs to reign in its spending. Johnson cites a budget outlook issued by Senate Republicans last year:
“We set up a proposal that would cut spending by five billion dollars a year,” she said. “That’s the point that we’re at right now. We need to be cutting some spending and taking a serious look at the programs and where we’re spending our money.”
Syverson, who has long pushed for fiscal discipline in Springfield, says while a leaner government is the way to go, cutting spending should be done carefully:
“I don’t think we need to take a hatchet approach to budgets,” he cautioned. “Instead we can go in there and say, instead of cutting all of these programs, why don’t we go in there and say, ‘How can we deliver these services cost effectively?’ ”
In recent years, the expansion of gambling has received a lot of attention in Springfield, as lawmakers look to bring in additional revenue. Johnson is strictly opposed to any such move.
“I think it’s not good public policy,” she stated. “I think gambling is not a reliable source of revenue. I think it leads to a lot of social ills: bankruptcies, divorces … those types of things. And I think Illinois can do better.”
Syverson supported last year’s gambling proposal, which included a casino for Rockford. In the past he has said that, while it isn’t an ideal solution, a new casino would benefit Rockford’s economic base. And, despite how he may feel about a particular issue, Syverson says crucial needs at the local level are at the top of his legislative agenda:
“I think if people look at my record,” he said, “they’ll see that I have tried to be aggressive when it comes to representing our community.”
The two candidates also offer differing views regarding abortion rights. Outside of enforcing strict regulations and limiting state funding for abortions, Syverson says he believes it’s a federal issue. Johnson feels the state should be “very involved” in dealing with abortion rights.
The winner of this race would be on track to claim victory in the general election, as Democrats have not slated a candidate for the 35th district.