Four-term incumbent state Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, is facing a challenge from both the left and right as she seeks another term representing the 96th House District.
Challenging Scherer are Republican Charlie McGorray, also from Decatur, and John Keating, a Springfield resident running as the Green Party candidate.
The 96th district is diverse, covering swaths of rural Sangamon, Christian and Macon counties as well as the urban cores of Decatur and Springfield. In the capital city, the district includes most of the east side and downtown.
Scherer has held the seat since 2013, when it was formed following the last redistricting cycle.
The district leans Democratic. Scherer has won with more than 60% of the vote in three of her four past elections. In 2014, a Republican wave year, she still obtained 55% of the vote.
Gov. JB Pritzker carried the district by about eight points in 2018, though President Donald Trump came within about two points of winning it in 2016.
Scherer said she reflects the working class district well. She tends to reflect her party’s position on economic issues — she’s in favor of the progressive income tax, for example — and is staunchly pro-union.
“We need to continue looking at our budget and figuring out ways we can reduce spending and waste,” Scherer said. “I am fiscally conservative, understand how hard it is to make ends meet, and have a great deal of common sense.”
But like many downstate Democrats, Scherer takes more conservative positions on social issues. The former teacher considers herself pro-Second Amendment, earning an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.
Scherer also voted against the legalization of marijuana and the Reproductive Health Act, which made access to reproductive health care services like abortion a fundamental right.
Keating, an activist who has led several Black Lives Matter protests in the capital city this summer, said that Scherer is too conservative for the district.
“The people are tired of politicians who appear to represent one thing and then vote and act the opposite,” Keating said. “I’m the best person to represent the 96th because I vow to speak to and actually represent the people, not just vote based on my personal beliefs.”
Keating said his passion for activism started when his father was arrested during the A.E. Staley lockout in 1993. He said “we need to stop subsidizing large corporations” and get corporate money out of politics.
If elected, he said he would fight to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act and criminal justice reform measures such as mandating body cameras on all law enforcement officers across the state.
McGorray, a retired Decatur firefighter who jumped into the race in July, is running on a pro-business agenda, arguing that the state needs to get its taxes, workman’s compensation and other fees in line with surrounding states.
He said he would take action to control the state’s pension costs, even supporting a constitutional amendment to do so.
“To allow for reform, amendment wording must conclusively override the pension protection clause and all other applicable state law issues,” McGorray. “I feel that all lower wage employees have to be protected and a reasonable cap of $200,000-250,000 be placed on any pension.”
As a firefighter, McGorray served on his union’s bargaining committee, pension board and executive board. He assisted with pension investments and planning along with contract negotiations.
This, along with his experience operating three businesses and serving on many civic boards, gives him well-rounded experience to serve the district, he said.
On ethics reform, Scherer and McGorray support banning legislators from simultaneously serving as lobbyists and creating a waiting period to protect against the revolving door.
When it comes to House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who was implicated but not charged in a bribery scheme allegedly orchestrated by utility giant Commonwealth Edison to influence and award his allies, only Keating said definitively that Madigan should step down from his role as speaker while the investigation proceeds.
Scherer said that if found guilty, Madigan should step down.
“In America, no one is above the law, and everyone is entitled to due process,” she said. “An investigation is ongoing. I am not privy to the information the FBI has gathered. My hope is that the truth comes out and justice is served.”
McGorray said that Madigan “should cooperate fully with (the Illinois House) investigation and answer all questions honestly. Then the House should take appropriate actions where necessary.”
Scherer has a significant cash advantage in the race. She’s raised $473,363 this cycle and has $257,926 cash on hand. Many contributions come from state Democratic Party, labor unions and trial lawyers.
McGorray has raised $61,817 and has $37,403 cash on hand, with most contributions coming from McGorray himself or state Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur.
Keating has filed paperwork to create a campaign fund, but has not filed any reports showing that he’s raised any money.
Keating has had a checkered past with the law. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal defacement of property. He served a 60-day jail sentence.
In 2010, Keating was arrested for and later pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol. In 2013, he pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis.
He was also charged with a count of burglary in 2007, but the case was dismissed.
Keating said he’s “never been shy” about times in his life that were problematic. In a post to his Facebook page on Oct. 5, he also acknowledged being a “troll” and dealing in offensive statements in the past.
“Recognizing those behaviors in yourself is the only way to grow as a person,” Keating said.
“If anything, I hope that I can show people who are still at previous points in my journey that there is a path forward.”
Contact Brenden Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/brendenmoore13.