As the Nov. 8 general election approaches, the contest for the 112th Legislative District in the Illinois General Assembly is becoming heated and high-profile.
Two-term incumbent Republican Rep. Dwight Kay, 69, of Glen Carbon is facing off against Democratic challenger Katie Stuart, 45, of Edwardsville.
In a state that has become synonymous with budget problems and a region scarred for decades by decline, both are calling for change in Springfield and emphasizing economic issues in their campaign appearances.
Kay calls for the ouster of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and other Democrat state officials who, he says, have spent recklessly, created an anti-business environment, and stalled fiscal reforms.
The vice-president of Edwardsville-based Cassens Transport — the largest privately-owned freight transportation company in North America. He is proposing an ambitious, multi-point economic growth plan, he believes can reverse the fortunes of Metro-East.
Stuart calls for the reprioritizing state programs to better address the needs of middle class Illinoisans. A mathematics instructor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Stuart is calling for a line-by-line audit of the state budget that she believes will eliminate enough waste and corruption to cover increases in funding for social services and education. Stuart, whose husband is an Edwardsville school principal, cites school funding reform as a top priority.
Kay is now in his fifth campaign for public office.
Stuart proudly notes she is a complete political novice; having never even run for student council in high school.
However, campaign finance report data filed with the Illinois Board of Elections shows the political newcomer has a decided fundraising advantage headed into the election.
Friends for Katie Stuart, as of Oct. 27, had reported a total of $1,163,331.26 in campaign support, according to the election board’s campaign funding webpage (www.elections.il.gov/CampaignDisclosure).
Citizens for Kay, in contrast, reports total funding of $467,187.81 for the current election cycle, according to the campaign finance tracking website, Illinois Sunshine (http://.Illinoissunshine.org).
Kay contends state Democratic party leaders are targeting him for his outspoken criticism of House Speaker Michael Madigan. In response, state Republican leaders helped to raised some $419,948.36 for the Kay campaign over just the past month, In addition to Democratic political groups, campaign records show Stuart also enjoys the support of numerous labor union organizations.
In addition to cash contributions, state Democratic and Republican organizations are both funding a barrage of negative television and direct mail advertising.
Republican-funded advertising for Rep. Kay attempts to link Stuart to the controversial Illinois House speaker, and accuses her of backing school funding reform legislation that would benefit Chicago school districts at the expense of those downstate.
“Katie Stuart: A Madigan first, Metro-East last kind of politician,” Kay’s advertising proclaims.
Ads also accuse Stuart of backing a proposal by Speaker Madigan that would, the advertising claims, would increase taxes in Illinois by 33 percent.
“Advertising for Stuart attempts to link Kay to controversial GOP President candidate Donald Trump; accusing Kay of voting against the interests of women in the state General Assembly.
The advertising’s tagline: “Dwight Kay on women: disgraceful.””
The Stuart campaign also criticizes Kay for repeatedly voting to raise lawmaker salaries while in office.
Presentations by both candidates around Metro-East have been somewhat less sensational.
Kay outlined his plan for job creation during a meeting of local business people at the Gateway Center in Collinsville on Sept. 15, including:
- A permanent state research and development tax credit,
- Ending “constant tax increase proposals,”
- Reducing the cost of setting up a limited liability corporation (LLC) in Illinois from $750 to $39, and
- Revising qualifications for workers’ compensation payments, in line with those in Missouri and Indiana.
Like Stuart, Kay favors education funding reform; although he disagrees with the Democrat over the specifics of a reform plan.
Stuart promises to be a full-time state representative. In addition to education funding reform, her legislative priorities include:
- Legislation to require voter approval of salary increases for lawmakers or other state officials,
- A state budget that does not require tax increases for middle-class families,
- Fair bargaining rights for state employees, and
- New or increased state support for cancer screenings, programs for children with disabilities, and meals and in-home medical care programs for the elderly.
The 112th House District covers a more-or-less rectangular section of Metro-East from just south of Rt. 140 to the northern tips of Caseyville and Fairview Heights — plus a swath extending west toward the east edge of Granite City. It covers all or part of Edwardsville, Maryville, Glen Carbon and Collinsville and O’Fallon.
— Kay, Stuart race heats up in 112th State House District —