Righter, Phillips react to primary victories, movement on spending bills

Stephanie Markham, Editor-in-Chief

Last Tuesday’s primary elections saw the incumbent Representative and Senator from Eastern’s legislative districts emerge victorious in addition to other closely watched results.

Incumbent Sen. Dale Righter, representing the 55th Senate district, took 68 percent (25,744) of the Republican vote in Illinois compared to opponent Mike Parsons’ 32 percent (11,896).

In Coles County, Righter gained about 74 percent (6,014) of the Republican vote while Parsons was left with the remaining 26 percent (2,107).

Incumbent Rep. Reggie Phillips, of the 110th Representative district, took 60 percent (10,920) of the Republican vote in Illinois while opponent Jonathan Kaye earned only 40 percent (7,417).

The race was closer in Coles County where Phillips still won with about 55.4 percent (4,402) compared to Kaye’s 44.6 percent (3,539) of the Republican vote.

Neither Righter nor Phillips had a Democratic challenger.

Paul Wieck, chair of the Coles County Democratic Central Committee, said certain difficulties limit potential Democratic candidates from running in Coles County.

Wieck said excluding the Charleston and the Eastern community, the rest of the county consists of rural districts with majority Republican voters. The rest of the district including Clark, Cumberland, Crawford and portions of Edgar and Lawrence counties are strongly Republican as well, leaving the voting trend about 65 percent to 35 percent in Republicans’ favor, he said.

“Cost of both time commitment and financial commitment is daunting to make a dent in the rest of the district given work, family and money,” Wieck said. “Democrats don’t tend to be independently wealthy.”

Righter said he was pleased not only in the results of Tuesday’s primaries but also in the direction of his campaign. Righter said many national and local campaigns had opponents attacking each other, but he believes he and Parsons both stuck to the issues.

“My focus was what my focus is in Springfield, and that is our challenges of getting this state back to a position of fiscal stability, which means balancing budgets and paying off our old bills,” Righter said.

Righter said he probably won by such a large percentage because he has been in office for a while and Parsons did not have the same district-wide presence.

Righter has represented the 55th Senate district since 2003.

“More importantly than that, people in my district are familiar with me in terms of my stance on (financial and economic) issues.”

He said his primary goal is getting immediate funding relief to Eastern.

“That means getting a package approved that can be paid for other than simply voting for bills that authorize this expensive expenditure of money,” he said. “That doesn’t do much good if there is little money in the checking account.”

On Thursday, Democrats in the Senate voted to approve a bill that would authorize spending $3.8 billion on programs including higher education and social services. The spending bill passed 39-18.

Righter, who voted against it, said it would only add to the backlog of bills the state already has.

“People in that bill would wait months to get their money,” he said. “That’s not the way to do this. The way to do this is to bring your expenditures in line with your revenue so people aren’t waiting three, four, five, six months for their money.”

He said Eastern needs an immediate infusion of money rather than being put at the back of the line behind 51,000 other unpaid vouchers in the comptroller’s office.

Phillips said he was also pleased with the results of the primary elections, but he knew he would do the worst in Coles County where people from Eastern, Lake Land College, and various social services have been affected by the budget stalemate.

“Basically the district thought I was the right person for the job,” Phillips said. “The hit I took was in Coles County, which was a lot of people that were upset, but we still took Coles County by 10 percent. The problem is the budget.”

He said he tried to get his message across in Coles County that he is fighting to make things work.

“It’s juggling two hot pieces of coal,” Phillips said. “One, we need economic reforms in order to create jobs, which was the reason I ran, and two, we need funding for EIU, and the question is, what are you willing to sacrifice to get EIU funding?”

He said but some compromise is going to need to happen, including economic reforms as well as raising taxes, but neither side wants to be the one to give in.

“I’d like to be able to tell you there is a tooth fairy, but there isn’t; there’s no tooth fairy,” Phillips said. “And so for me to sit here and tell you that you’re not going to get taxes, I mean I’m not going to lie to people. There are going to be taxes. We have to have some sensible solution to this.”

Phillips said if the bill to fund community colleges and MAP grants had gone through, people in districts with community colleges and private colleges would have been complacent, and the pressure would largely be off the legislature to work out funding for public universities.

“I had to stay strong,” Phillips said. “I told them I wouldn’t vote for it, and I didn’t. I told them I’d vote for full funding, and I did.”

Stephanie Markham can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].