We’re now down to less than two months until election day.
That’s 58 days to go to be exact as of Sunday.
We’ve already been inundated with campaign ads. A lot of them focusing on the presidential race. But, there’s a lot at stake besides the White House.
Democrats and Republicans are staging a big battle nationally for control of Congress.
Republicans enjoy a big majority in the House of Representatives that they’re expected to maintain at 247 to 186. It’s much closer in the Senate where there’s a 54 to 44 edge for the Republicans along with two Independents. Both Independents caucus with the Democrats. That means a five-seat swing could put the Democrats back in control.
In Iowa, the House of Representatives is firmly in Republican control at 57 to 43. There’s no reason to expect that to change much. Democrats enjoy a slim majority in the State Senate at 26 to 23 with one member indicating no party affiliation. A strong showing by Republicans in November could give the party control of both houses.
Then there’s the Illinois General Assembly where the state is stuck in gridlock despite strong Democratic majorities in both houses. There’s a 71 to 47 advantage in the State House. It’s 39 to 20 for the Democrats in the State Senate. Technically, these are supermajorities that can override any governor veto if the party unifies.
Given the Illinois budget stalemate, the stakes are high this election year. Governor Bruce Rauner wants to weaken the Democratic majority to gain more political leverage.
His chief rival, House Speaker Michael Madigan, hopes to secure an unbeatable supermajority to stall the governor’s Turnaround Agenda.
A couple of local races for the General Assembly could play big roles in that outcome.
One of them is the State Representative race for the 72nd district to replace the retiring Pat Verschoore, a Democrat.
Attorney Mike Halpin won the Democratic primary and will go against Republican Brandi McGuire, a driver’s education instructor.
Halpin has a big lead in fundraising. He’s taken in more than $429,000 compared to McGuire who has raised just shy of $19,000 for her campaign.
Halpin appeared on 4 the Record to discuss the issues of the campaign. It was supposed to be an extended conversation with both of the candidates. Both candidates initially agreed to appear together. Then, the McGuire campaign pulled out because we wouldn’t provide a list of topics that would be discussed.
The campaign was notified it would cover the big issues in Illinois, but disclosing the topics is not something we do in these situations.
Arguably, the biggest issue in Illinois is the failure of the legislature and the governor to pass a real budget. The stopgap budget in place is merely a bandaid before any hard decisions have to be made after the election. A state legislative commission projects the general fund deficit will more than double to $7.8 billion this fiscal year.
Halpin says there is no easy solution to bring that in balance. He agrees with Governor Bruce Rauner that it will take a combination of tax increases and spending cuts at this point. Halpin didn’t pin down any specific dollar amounts for cuts or indicate what rate he’d like to see for income taxes. However, he says he does support changing the tax system so that it includes a surcharge for millionaires.
Governor Rauner says he has trimmed down his demands for his Turnaround Agenda. Two big items are workers’ compensation reform, property tax relief and getting term limits on the ballot.
Halpin says he’s open to discussion on some of these issues.
The governor’s also fighting for redistricting. He’s now calling lawmakers to do something on the issue after the State Supreme Court blocked it from getting on the November ballot.
Halpin says he’s one of the Democrats who supports redistricting as long as it’s done in what he says is a fair and representative manner.
The Democratic candidate says he will vote on issues to represent the interests of his district. He does not expect to be a guy who strictly sticks to the party line.