GOP rising star faces Democratic stalwart in 95th House District

By Bob Pieper For Chronicle Media
State Rep. Avery Bourne (Photo courtesy of Friends for Avery Bourne)

State Rep. Avery Bourne
(Photo courtesy of Friends for Avery Bourne)

In the 95th Illinois House of Representatives District, the Nov. 8 general election will see a relative political newcomer representing Republicans in a battle with a well-known area Democrat.

That scenario is not unusual.  However, in this case, the young Republican is the incumbent with a substantial fundraising advantage, and the seasoned, establishment Democrat is the challenger hoping for a swell of grassroots support.

Incumbent State Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Raymond) faces a challenge from former Macoupin County Circuit Clerk Mike Mathis (D-Gillespie) in the mostly rural district, which spans sections of Macoupin, Christian, Madison and Montgomery counties. The 95th generally has reputation as swing district; although it has been trending Republican during recent elections.

State Rep. Bourne, at the time a law student at Washington University in St. Louis, assumed the 95th District House seat on Feb. 18, 2015; after being appointed to fill the unexpired term of State Rep. Wayne Rosenthal. Rosenthal left the Illinois House seat after being appointed to lead the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Over the course of 32 years in politics, Mathis, in addition to Macoupin County Circuit Clerk, has served as chair of the county’s Democratic central committee, president of the Illinois Association of Democratic Central Committee Chairmen, and numerous other public offices and political positions.

However, the Bourne campaign sees Mathis’ extensive political background as a negative; characterizing him as a career politician allied with Illinois House speaker Mike Madigan (D).  Negative campaign advertising criticizes Mathis for drawing a total of $1 million in compensation over his three decades in public office and political positions.

“Mathis: in it for the money; not the middle class,” the advertisements assert.

Former Macoupin County Circuit Clerk Mike Mathis (Photo courtesy of Friends of Mike Mathis)

Former Macoupin County Circuit Clerk Mike Mathis
(Photo courtesy of Friends of Mike Mathis)

Conversely, the Mathis campaign characterizes Bourne as a political novice, too inexperienced to effectively represent the district, and an operative for Gov. George Rauner (R).

Over her months in the Illinois House, Bourne has missed, or responded “present” on, 115 votes, the Mathis campaign contends. To date, her work experience outside of public office has mostly involved volunteering for Republican campaigns, Mathis contends.

Bourne is supported by the Republican Illinois House Organization, Illinois Republican Central Committee, and other GOP groups.

Mathis is supported by the Illinois AFL-CIO, Illinois Education Association, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and the Illinois Retired Teachers Association, as well as the Illinois Democratic Central Committee and allied party organizations.

Bourne cites as her legislative priorities:

  • A pro-growth economic agenda aimed at strengthening the district’s agricultural community as well as providing job training for new opportunities in manufacturing.
  • “Common sense” property tax relief, and
  • Funding for local schools.

Mathis’ campaign themes include support for:

  • The Southwestern Illinois coal industry,
  • Organized labor, and
  • School funding reform.

Bourne is running for her first full term in office, after defeating challengers Dennis Scobbie and Christopher Hicks in the spring Republican primary.  That victory, according to the Mathis campaign, came after the state Republican leaders poured more than $250 ,000 into her primary campaign; financing an aggressive television advertising campaign in both the Springfield and expensive St. Louis media markets.

Mathis, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, says he is now the target of a similarly aggressive and well-financed negative campaign, which he hopes to overcome with a strong showing of support from the area’s traditional Democratic base.

“Handpicked by voters, not Bruce Rauner,” Mathis campaign literature proclaims.

Bourne enjoys a three-to-one campaign fundraising advantage over her Democratic rival.

The Friends for Avery Bourne reports total funding of $1,105,190.42 for the current election cycle.

The Friends of Mike Mathis reports total funding of $428,755.80 for their campaign.

Bourne, 25, holds a bachelor’s degree in American studies from Columbia College where she graduated summa cum laude with honors and distinction. She was attending Washington University as a Dean’s Fellowship Scholar.

She serves on the Illinois House Agriculture & Conservation; Consumer Protection; Counties & Townships; Transportation: Vehicles & Safety; and Veterans’ Affairs committee.  Earlier this year, she was appointed to the state Education Funding Task Force.

Mathis, 66, served in the Army, including service Vietnam, then worked as a miner and has been a United Mine Workers member for more than 25 years.

He was elected alderman in Gillespie and served for six years before getting elected mayor for 12 years. In 1996, he was elected circuit clerk and served in that role until this past Jan. 1, when he resigned to work full-time on his legislative race.


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