Illinois’ primary election is less than a week away. Three Republicans are competing for the nomination in the state’s 65th House District. The candidates are hoping to succeed a longtime GOP lawmaker who has held the seat for 15 years.
The 65th District covers a lot of ground in Chicago’s far western suburbs. It stretches from the Huntley-area in southern McHenry County down to the cities of Saint Charles and Geneva in central Kane County.
Chris Mooney is a political scientist with the University of Illinois. He says the district has seen some changes in its boundaries, but not so much in its voting base.
“It’s moved around a lot like a lot of these suburban districts do. They’re fairly densely populated and the boundaries can change. But it’s largely a Republican district,” Mooney said.
Since 1999, this area has been represented by Republican Tim Schmitz, who announced last fall that he would not be seeking another term.
Following Schmitz’s announcement, a trio of GOP candidates emerged. One of them is Steve Andersson, a municipal attorney who says he is laser-focused on helping to repair the state’s finances.
“I don’t think the social issues are the key. I think resolving the state’s financial crisis is the ultimate thing that we have to address right now,” Andersson said.
For example, Andersson says the state should bring in auditors to determine where spending cuts should be made.
Dan Ugaste is another attorney running for the seat. He too says fixing Illinois' finances should be the top priority for lawmakers. He says they could save money by implementing "suspicion-based" drug testing for those who rely on state aid:
"And what you do is you don't just cut people off if they test positive. You put them into a program, get them better, and make them productive members of society, which will hopefully add to the tax rolls instead of taking money out of the state:
Ugaste also says there should be further pension reform, including the possibility of a 401k-style system.
His opponents, including wellness coach Debbie Miller, have made similar calls when it comes to reigning in pension costs. Miller, meanwhile, says her main focus is creating jobs:
"We have a lot of regulations, fees and high taxes on businesses here, so we need to take a look at that and make it so that Illinois is competitive with other states," Miller said.
Miller says those steps would also encourage more people currently living in Illinois to start their own businesses.
U-of-I's Chris Mooney says when you look at who might have the edge in this race; fundraising totals put Andersson and Ugaste at the top. But he says it won’t be easy for voters to find many differences between the two front runners.
“They’re pro-small business and anti-tax. You know that partly reflects the majority of the people in the district,” Mooney said.
No Democrat has filed to run for the seat. But Mooney says no matter who ends up winning the race, they will have big shoes to fill, given that Schmitz has served as one of the highest ranking House Republicans.