AURORA -- With State Rep. Pat Lindner announcing her retirement earlier this year, the 50th House district will now have a chance to be represented by someone who reflects the district's more conservative views, Big Rock horse farmer and GOP candidate Terry Hunt told Illinois Review last week.
Hunt and three others – Batavia’s Dave Richmond, Yorkville's Kay Hatcher and Tony Graff – are vying to be the GOP's nominee February 5th. Whoever wins the primary will have a very good chance of retaining the Republican-leaning district seat in November.
“Pat has voted for illegal immigrants to get drivers’ licenses, tuition discounts, she’s voted for amnesty plans,” he said. “She supported Governor Ryan’s humongous tax plan. She’s not been, in my estimation, a good steward of the tax dollars that are going to Springfield.”
“I’m a prolife Christian," said Hunt, whose family attends the Orchard Valley Christian Church, "and Pat is a moderate to liberal pro-choicer."
But it was Hunt's financial background with a multi-state company before he established his own horse farm business in 1984 that fully acquainted him with what a challenge it is to profitably operate a business in Illinois. He’s testified before committees at the state capitol, and the experiences stirred an interest in the politics.
“The taxes -- income, assessment, motor fuel, workmen’s comp rates -- in Illinois have limited the free market atmosphere and kept us from generating jobs,” he said. His experience in agriculture also makes him aware of the farmer’s plight.
But it wasn’t until this past summer when Rep. Lindner announced she would not seek re-election that State Senator Chris Lauzen contacted Hunt and encouraged him to run for the open seat. After talking it over with his wife of 32 years as well as his 27 year old daughter, Hunt decided to jump in.
He’s pleased with the support he’s picked up thus far, with endorsements from conservative groups such as Family Taxpayers’ Network, Family-PAC and the Illinois Center Right Coalition. He’s also received high ratings from prolife groups.
The social policy issues are important to Hunt, he says, but it’s the state’s financial status that concerns him most.
“We need to spend more wisely, not just raise more money,” he said. “Taking money from one fund to put into another confuses the public and perpetuates a deceptive shell game. We don’t need a GRT or any other higher taxes.”
So how does one who raises horses for a living deal with one popular fallback for raising state revenues -- gambling?
“I would have supported Rep. John Bradley’s proposal to ban casinos last year,” he said. "But the horse racing business is something different. Horse racing has been there forever, employs 40,000 people throughout the state, and helps to maintain the state’s green space,” he said.
And it’s not going away as a revenue source, Hunt said. The state is expected to raise $700 million in revenue from gambling alone this year. Hunt assured profamily leaders during a recent forum that he would recuse himself if any legislation came before him concerning horse racing.
How does Hunt plan to win in the 50th against three other opponents?
“I plan to outwork them,” he said. Then he thumbnailed his differences with the other 50th HD candidates:
“Kay Hatcher and I are diametrically opposed on issues. I value life at both ends of the spectrum, not as she is, an advocate for the elderly.”
Dave Richmond, who has served as Hastert’s district office constituent services director, will follow suit of “doing whatever Denny Hastert did,” Hunt said, suggesting in contrast that he will be free to exercise his own conscience in decision-making.
Tony Graff, the third opponent, is an experienced law enforcement officer and a former Yorkville city manager. But Graff’s positions on social issues are not clear, and is especially confusing on the life issue, Hunt said. While claiming to be prolife, Graff told a forum audience recently he would support expanding the services of Aurora’s controversial Planned Parenthood clinic.
"One thing you’ll find about me is that I won’t tailor my message to the audience,” Hunt said. “By and large, people are fed up with politicians who do that. My message will be the same every time.”
So which opponent is most formidable for Hunt? He's not as concerned about opponents, he said, as much as he is about low voter turnout, which in the past has produced undesirable results.
But that’s not likely to be the case this year in the 50th State Rep race, sitting right in the midst of the heated 14th CD primary. Actually, the reverse is true, Hunt said. He thinks the February 5th primary will be history-making.
“I believe this is almost like the perfect storm for a conservative looking to make genuine reform. We have a competitive presidential primary, a congressional race which was going to be exciting from a lot of different standpoints,” Hunt said.
“If we have a higher turnout than normal, that’s good for me because my message is the one people want to hear.”