In 2004, former high school administrator and popular basketball coach John Cavaletto came within single digits of winning the 107th House seat for the Republicans. Once again, Cavaletto and his wife Connie are tirelessly knocking on doors and visiting with groups in the area, asking that the voters of the district fifty miles east of St. Louis to send him to Springfield. This time they could make it.
Connie, Cavaletto’s wife of 40 years, is his campaign partner and biggest fan. But that’s nothing new, she says. “For years, I would pack up our three boys and we would climb on the bus with the team and be right there to root for John’s team."
John’s basketball coaching days listed him in Illinois Athletic Directors' Hall of Fame. He likes to tease about how his teams beat now-Senator David Luechtefeld's (R-Okawville) teams when they were both coaches.
The 37 years Cavaletto spent working with the young people of the 107th House district drew him into those families’ lives. Seeing young people grow up just to move away because good paying jobs left the area is a key reason Cavaletto wants to represent the district at the Capitol.
It’s for those young people that Cavaletto recently introduced a “Southern Illinois Works” program to provide incentives for businesses to come to Illinois and provide proactive measures to improve Illinois’ agriculture industry while relieving tax burdens.
The 107th District has changed dramatically over the past two decades incumbent Kurt Granberg (D-Centralia) has been in office. Unions, once crucial in the area’s main revenue source, have phased out as a considerable amount of southern Illinois’ coal mining shut down. As union jobs left the area, so did Democratic votes.
The 107th District mirrors the 108th, which swung Republican in 2004 when conservative values' advocate David Reis (R-Effingham) beat Democratic Bill Grunloh for retiring State Rep. Chuck Hartke’s (D-Effingham) open seat. The district is “an increasingly red pocket in a blue state,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently described it, and the longtime incumbent Granberg, part of the Democratic House leadership, sides with liberal Chicago Democrats on social issues.
Cavaletto, on the other hand, believes parents should be involved in making medical decisions for their children, that they should know if their minor daughters are having an abortion and should give consent before their children are screened for mental health issues. He doesn’t want taxes and fees to be raised, and upholds the definition of traditional marriage as between a man and a woman.
Recently, Cavaletto was faced with a homosexual activist after a candidate forum, who confronted the candidate's stand on gay marriage and made local headline news. Cavaletto's opponent Granberg voted in 2005 to add the term “sexual orientation” to the Human Rights Act, a vote gay groups lauded as a movement victory.
Part of House Minority Leader Tom Cross’ Republican House Organization’s “southern strategy,” a Cavaletto win will sway Southern Illinois more Republican, assuming renewed political clout and momentum for the Bible Belt region’s traditional family values' residents.
The HRO has invested over $400 thousand dollars into the Cavaletto campaign this past year and Granberg has raised a similar amount of money.
The 107th House District will be a race to watch when votes begin coming in downstate on November 7.