Aaron Schock's soon to be vacant congressional seat is attracting the attention of some Illinois politicians. The Republican is resigning following public scrutiny into his office's spending and use of taxpayer money. He plans to leave office next week.
State Senator Darin LaHood (R-Dunlap) is the only candidate to formally announce he’s running for Schock's seat in the upcoming special election. LaHood currently represents five of the district’s 19 counties at the state level.
He said if elected to the congressional seat, he would look to improve infrastructure and transportation, grow the economy and promote the region’s largest industry.
“How do we look at our ag policy to promote farmers and the commodities in this district? I think that’s very, very important. Whether it’s the South Korea free trade agreement or other trade agreements. How do we promote our ag industry is very important,” LaHood said.
LaHood has served five years in the state legislature. He said during that time he’s supported concealed carry legislation, term limits for lawmakers and several ethics bills inspired by his decade as prosecutor at the state and federal level.
Even though the legislature is currently in session, LaHood said he will make time to campaign throughout the district. "With a large district you have to travel an awful lot, I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m going to have to work very hard at this district. I may be known in my senate district but there’s a large part of this district that I am not known in," LaHood said.
Darin LaHood's father Ray LaHood held the same congressional seat for more than decade.
Another politician contemplating whether to jump in the race is former State Representative Jil Tracy (R-Quincy). She served eight years in the legislature before making a failed bid for Lieutenant Governor last year on Kirk Dillard's ticket. She said she previously served about eight of the district's 19 counties at the state level.
“We want to do the very best for this region. I love public service, I like solving problems for constituents and you know I miss it. I want to see good representation for the 18th Congressional District," Tracy said.
Tracy said she has experience with her family’s business, DOT foods and would bring business savvy to the Congressional seat.
"I think what we need to see in central Illinois are good economic growth and we see some businesses closing and the like and as a state representative that’s what I worked for tirelessly is better employment opportunities for the people of Illinois so people can live here and raise their families,” Tracy said.
Tracy said she wants to see the populations in rural counties rebound. She said improving infrastructure and supporting education are her two other priorities. Tracy plans to announce whether she will run after the timeline for the special election is decided.
The district is considered to be drawn to benefit Republican candidates. But State Senator John Sullivan (D-Rushville) may also jump in the race.
He has served for a dozen years and currently represents eight of the 19 counties in the district at the state level. Sullivan said he will decide whether to run within the next couple weeks.
Republican Governor Bruce Rauner will set the timeline for the special election. According to Illinois law, voters must weigh in by July.