GOP ready to rumble over 112th House District

By Bill Dwyer For Chronicle Media

Illinois Republican Minority Leader Tony McCombie said her problem with a hastily passed state bill that takes away a party’s ability to slate a candidate who did not run in the primary isn’t its effect, but rather its immediate and sudden effect on a campaign season already well underway. (State Rep. Tony McCombie photo)

In the wake of a legislative lightning strike that took away their ability to slate Illinois legislature candidates who did not run in a scheduled primary, Illinois Republicans are hoping to make a statement this fall. 

In the process, they hope to take back the 112th House District, encouraged by a strong candidate and fueled by a sense of grievance. 

On May 2, Democrats rushed a bill through the General Assembly banning local party organizations from appointing candidates to legislative ballots where the party did not field a primary candidate. The old law had allowed parties to appoint general election candidates up to 75 days after the primary. 

Numerous Republican officials contend that the Democrat’s purpose was to protect 112th District incumbent Katie Stuart, and are derisively calling the new law “The Katie Stuart Protection Act.”  

Talking on Patrick Pfingsten’s Illinoize Podcast recently, Republican Minority Leader Tony McCombie said she and her GOP colleagues were caught flat-footed. 

“… all of a sudden, we found out … on a Wednesday, May 1, that they’re dropping a bill,” McCombie told Pfingsten. “We hear we’re gonna have a bad day. They drop a bill in (the Rules Committee) at 10:40 (a.m.) and then by the end of the day, a bill passes, (taking away) the slating.”  

McCombie said her problem with the bill isn’t its effect, but rather its immediate and sudden effect on a campaign season already well underway. 

“Now had they changed the rules for the next election season, we probably could have gotten behind that. But they’re wanting to change the rules and make it effective right now.”  

In a written statement, Madison County Republican Party Chairman Ray Wesley lambasted the Democrats for changing long-accepted campaign practice.  

“The passage of SB2412 … is yet another attempt at election interference by the Democratic Party to protect vulnerable candidates,” he said.  

Troy city administrator Jay Keeven was slated by Madison County Republicans on April 15 to be on the November ballot against Stuart. He is a lifelong resident of the Metro East area, and a 35-year veteran of law enforcement, including eight years as Edwardsville Police Chief. 

McCombie said that the impact of the Democrats move had an immediate and galvanizing impact on Metro area Republicans. Keeven, she said, had “247 petition signatures” on May 2. Upon hearing of the new law, his campaign reached out to radio stations and State Rep. Amy Elik in the neighboring 111th District. His supporters held several petition-signing events, and by day’s end, had gathered 828 signatures. 

“A bunch of folks down there just got behind Jay Keeven, and it was awesome,” said McCombie. “We got a great candidate, and we’re gonna take the one-twelve (112th).”  

“It’s gonna be a hard race, he’s gonna fight, he’s gonna win,” said McCombie. But talk is cheap in politics, while winning contested campaigns is anything but. 

According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, Keeven has raised $7,000 so far, including $5,000 from himself. More comprehensive figures from all funding sources will not be available until July, after the end of the second-quarter reporting period.  

Stuart, who unseated incumbent Dwight Kay in 2017 by a 10-point margin, won reelection in 2022 by an 8.4 percent margin. In the first quarter of 2024, she took in $23,822, leaving her with just short of $500,000 on hand.