Two experienced politicians with separate power bases in the newly drawn 88th District State House will be on the March 19 Republican primary ballot.
Regan Deering, of Decatur, and Chuck Erickson, of Bloomington, are vying to fill the seat being vacated by Republican Dan Caulkins, who declined to run for reelection, having promised not to serve more than three terms.
With the district a solidly red enclave politically, the primary election will determine the next state representative, as no Democrat filed nominating petitions.
Deering is endorsed by the retiring Caulkins, and Erickson is endorsed by retired State Sen. Dan Brady, a longtime political force in the Bloomington-Normal area.
But while Deering saw her name recognition soar during her 2022
campaign for the 13th Congressional District seat against now-Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski, just how much that name recognition helps Deering remains to be seen, as most of the 13th Congressional District lies outside the boundaries of the new 88th State House District.
Deering and Erickson face a markedly different 88th District from Caulkins. After the 2022 re-districting, the 88th District saw its boundaries morph from Bloomington west to Morton and Washington, to a considerably more sprawling district that runs from Lexington, north of Bloomington (which is now its western-most boundary) down south nearly an hour to Decatur.
The two GOP stalwarts will also be challenged to differentiate themselves from each other politically. Both are fiscally and socially conservative, are pro Second Amendment rights, and have established track records.
On her campaign website, Deering rails against “extreme Democrats” who are threatening the state economy and “forcing their radical values into our homes and schools.”
Caulkins stood beside Deering at her announcement in June. He said he chose to endorse Deering because of her strong commitment to family values. To that end, Deering touts her role as the Decatur Public School Foundation Chair and has made the state’s Invest in Kids Scholarship Program a main focus of her campaign.
The program, created in 2017, offers a 75 percent income tax credit to individuals and businesses that contribute to qualified Scholarship Granting Organizations. It has been criticized by teachers’ unions as drawing funding away from public schools.
“I am deeply concerned that the General Assembly is considering ending the Invest in Kids Scholarship Program, which provides a lifeline to countless children from low-income and working-class families,” Deering said in an October press release.
In announcing his candidacy Erickson touted his “proven track record of effective conservative leadership on the county board and his commitment to constituent services.” A Bloomington-area lawyer for the past quarter century, he has served 12 years on the McClean County Board, and was selected to a fourth term in 2022. He has been a Republican precinct committeeman since 2008.
Erickson’s strong roots in McClean County are reflected in his endorsements, which besides Brady include the current and former county sheriffs and former and current McLean County Republican Party Chairmen John Parrott and John McIntyre.
“His support for family values, agricultural, law enforcement, education and business issues is the heart of this district,” Brady said of Erickson.