Illinois is facing a tumultuous time as General Primary Election Day quickly approaches.
With an unemployment rate at 8.9 percent – the third highest in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor – bringing jobs back to the state is a key issue for each of the Republican candidates seeking the congressional nomination in the 11th District.
“The average person in the 11th District wants to have a job, get up and go to work every day, go to their kids’ soccer games and really live the American dream,” said candidate Chris Balkema.
Balkema said he is pushing to return jobs to Illinois and the U.S., and one of the main ways to do that is to lower the corporate income tax rate “down to the mid 20s.”
“We would see an amount of investment here in America that we haven’t seen in years,” Balkema said.
Balkema is a sitting Grundy County board member and served on the Minooka Community High School District 111 Board of Education, but like the rest of the candidates, he comes from a business background as the purchasing manager of Caterpillar in Joliet.
Republican candidate Bert Miller of Hinsdale was the president and COO of Phoenix Closures in Naperville from 1981 to 2013, and said he knows what it means to meet a payroll, balance a budget and create jobs.
“The best way that we can help American businesses and those in the 11th District involves creating a sound economic climate and then getting government out of the way ... so job creators can do what they do best,” Miller said, “innovate, develop and grow jobs.”
Miller said as a congressman he would work to reduce high tax rates and improve the education and workforce development system.
Candidate Darlene Senger has been a state representative of the 41st District since 2009, but said one reason she wants to run for the 11th District was because she sees it becoming “gerrymandered” by Democrats for current Congressman Bill Foster and seeks to change that.
Growing up in Hammond, Ind., in a working class family, Senger saw firsthand the hard work that went into supporting loved ones. She said jobs are the number one priority in Illinois and bringing businesses back is key.
“Illinois is not that great when it comes to being business friendly from the taxing perspective and many businesses are upset with that,” Senger said. “I hear stories all the time where people are getting calls to say they are relocating to another state that’s a little more friendly to business.”
Senger said what separates her from her opponents is experience, as she is a third term legislator.
“That’s what you want in Washington,” she said. “You want someone that can take on and tackle the big issues and get something done, and I’ve done that.”
Like fellow candidate Ian Bayne, Senger has been critical of Obamacare from the beginning. Bayne said the first initiative he would take to improve the business climate in Illinois is repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s really that simple right now,” Bayne said. “There’s all kinds of things that can be done, but repealing Obamacare will get rid of the uncertainty because what Obamacare is, it’s a Pandora’s Box. If you’re a business owner as I am, I don’t really know what’s going to happen next year.”
Bayne said he’s no stranger to the political field, as a few years ago he was calling delegates and getting votes for Mitt Romney, who then went on to be governor of Massachusetts. But it’s his experience in the business sector that he said will lend well to a “failing” Washington.
“The problem we have is we keep sending people to Washington who have never had to face financial diversity, so how are they going to handle adversity in Washington?” he said.
The winner of the General Primary will run against Congressman Foster, who each candidate said has a record of voting for higher taxes and raising the debt ceiling, and is doing little to improve life for residents in the 11th District.
Foster is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
A fifth candidate for the Republican race, Craig Robbins, withdrew his candidacy in February. Robbins said in a statement that while he remains dedicated to serving the community, he found it difficult to commit the necessary time.
Employment: Purchasing manager of Caterpillar in Joliet
History: Sitting Grundy County board member, served on the Minooka Community High School District 111 Board of Education.
Quote of note: “I have the courage and the skills set to go drive results to the voters and I will get the job done. I have 100 percent drive record of getting the job done at Caterpillar for the stockholders, at Grundy County and the high school board for the voters, and I will do the exact same thing for District 11 residents, as well as America.”
Education: Served in the U.S. Army National Guard and Reserves, briefly attended University of Massachusetts at Boston.
Employment: Works in real estate brokerage, real estate valuation and commercial construction; radio talk show host of “Behind the News” and “The Right Direction.”
History: Spent years assisting various Republican campaigns, including Mitt Romney’s 2002 gubernatorial run. He is also a member of both the Screen Actor’s Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Quote of note: “You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re extending yourself, hiring new people and trying to grow when Obamacare is going to come along and whack you down right when things are bad. That’s why there’s no growth.”
Education: Colorado State University, Loyola University in Chicago
Employment: President and COO of Phoenix Closures in Naperville from 1981 to 2013
History: Former chairman of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, current board member of the National Association of Manufacturers, in 2007 was named Illinois Institute of Technology’s Entrepreneur of the Year.
Quote of note: “My top priorities are creating a positive business climate that will increase capital investment and job growth. We also have to tackle the growing debt that is threatening our future. It’s time that our leaders cut up the nation’s credit cards and make the tough spending decisions that our families must make every single day.”
Education: Purdue University, DePaul University
Employment: Representative of the 41st District
History: Worked at First National Bank of Chicago then later SEI Consulting, eventually rising through the ranks to become vice president. She also served on the Naperville City Council.
Quote of note: “When you put someone in office, you want to put someone in office that you can trust and you can count on them to move the country forward. ... I think the difference between myself and others who like to dance on the table, yell and scream, is that they are never going to be a part of the solution, they will be part of the problem.”