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A Look At The Illinois 70th District Race

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ
Democrat Paul Stoddard (left) is challenging Republican incumbent Jeff Keicher (right) in the 70th District Illinois House race.

The 70th House District covers parts of DeKalb, Kane, and Winnebago counties. Since 2003, it's been represented in the General Assembly by Republican Bob Pritchard. Earlier this year, Pritchard resigned from his position to join Northern Illinois University's Board of Trustees.

After participating in the primary, party offiicals picked State Farm insurance agent Jeff Keicher to fill out the term.

"As a result of being the Republican candidate when Pritchard had been appointed to NIU's Board of Trustees, the Republican heads for each of the counties I represent caucused together and appointed me into his seat," he said.

Keicher is running to keep the seat, and says he's received a lot of support.

"So we had strong fundraising coming into my appointment and we've continued to see those trend lines post-appointment as well," he said.

Opposing Keicher is Democrat Paul Stoddard. He's a retired NIU professor and 10-year member of the DeKalb County Board. Stoddard says unlike Keicher, he's received little financial support from his state party, and many of his donations are local.

"Actually, part of me is a little flattered that they felt threatened enough that they needed to give Mr. Keicher a leg up," he said.

Stoddard says he wants to end gerrymandering and keep campaign funding at the local level. He also wants to implement reforms he made during his tenure on the DeKalb County Board. Chief among these is appointing committees in line with how much a party controls.

"This keeps the minority party as part of the government," he said. "It gives them an outlet to advance many of their important issues to the full board, and it gives them a stake in successful government."

Keicher wants greater accountability regarding how much costs state rules impose on smaller units of government.  

"We need to pull back and allow for more local control and fewer mandates on school districts and local units of government that are really forcing a cost burden onto the taxpayer," he said, "and they see that with the increase that they've had recently in their income tax rate or in the increasing property tax environment that we continue to find ourself in."

Both candidates want to rebuild state resources that were affected by the budget impasse, particularly in higher education. Stoddard says this is key to attracting students.

"I think a lot of them have lost that faith in our university system, which is why they are leaving the state," he said. "We need to reverse that and we need to take concrete steps: hire faculty, return programs that were forced to be cut by the budget, and so forth."

Keicher also wants to take unused resources on campuses to help non-traditional students. He uses the example of empty residence halls at Northern Illinois University.

"Can we use that excess capacity that NIU has created and help subsidize, through these MAP Grant programs, the housing for folks that are working 20-30 hours a week just trying to get that degree?"

Stoddard and Keicher view themselves as public servants first, and both are eager to prove their mettle in this coming race.  Keicher is confident that his "deregulation mentality" will lead to innovation at the local level.

"Every time people see a problem, if you've got a large enough solution, they're going to gather and they're going to get together and figure out what is the way through this," he said.

As for Stoddard, he urges people to vote, and pay particular attention to down-ballot races.

"The farther down the ballot you go, the more impact those races, those elections have on your day-to-day life," he said. "It's a little bit harder to find the information about these races, but I think it's well worth the effort, because that really controls how things are going to run in your local area."

The mid-term elections will be held November 6th. Early voting is underway.

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