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Election 2020: Meet the candidates for State House District 70

Editor’s note: Members of the Shaw Media Local News Network and the Daily Herald had an in-depth discussion about the key issues in the race for Illinois State House District 70. A video of the full candidate Q&A, along with profiles on all local candidates, can be found on the Daily Chronicle’s Election Central website at www.shawlocal.com/election.

Jeff Keicher, Republican, District 70

Jeff Keicher is a State Farm Insurance agent who lives in Sycamore with his wife and three children. He was elected to represent District 70 in the Illinois House of Representatives in 2018, is a Northern Illinois University first-generation graduate and said he’s running for reelection to continue bipartisan efforts for the people of District 70.

He cited economic development such as Ferrara Candy Co. and a measure he advocated for in the state budget for tax incentives for data centers as imperative to social media giant Facebook choosing DeKalb as the site of its 11th data center.

“We have worked amazingly well across the aisle,” Keicher said. “Because as Republican, we are in the super minority in the Illinois House, so there’s 44 of us and 74 Democrats so by definition absolutely everything that I want to get done happens through compromise.”

Keicher said the most pressing issue facing District 70 is the coronavirus pandemic and its many effects, both economic- and health-related. He said he commends Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat, for stepping up in the beginning of the pandemic in March to institute lockdowns to mitigate spread.

“But I also give pushback,” he said, saying his district office in Sycamore has been inundated throughout the pandemic with constituents who are unable to access unemployment services because of the onslaught of jobless Illinoisans trying to reach the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

“We have had significant problems,” Keicher said. “I’ve pushed aggressively on the governor to expand, either through temporary employees or other government employees who weren’t working come in and help.”

He said he also believes the governor should allow authorities such as the IHSA to make their own decisions on whether they can safely return to fall and winter sports following public safety protocols.

When asked about a return-to-classroom schooling models amid regional calls by parents and local districts to have children back in buildings, Keicher said the health of educators should be prioritized.

“We have to look after the health and safety of our educators,” he said. “Make sure we have an avenue where those educators who are potentially volunteer are allowed to work with kids in a virtual environment. But we need to do that through local control.”

He emphasized his continued frustration that the Illinois legislature is “cut out of the process.” He also cited the Illinois Department of Public Health’s frequent amendments to public safety protocols as it pertains to schools.

“Repeated delays or alterations in the rules these schools had to abide by, that’s just not fair,” Keicher said. “We can’t keep altering rules so that school districts’ like Sycamore were left without a decision to be made.”

When asked about local property taxes and his thoughts on the proposed graduated income tax — a change from Illinois’ current flat rate structure to one which would make the rate of tax residents pay relative to their income, so higher-earning individuals or businesses would pay more taxes — Keicher said Illinois’ taxes can’t continue as they do.

“When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Illinois cannot continue to tax its way out of the hole that its bound itself in,” Keicher said, adding that tax revenue comes from other people’s income. “Those revenues are other people’s money. People are sick and tired of how Illinois is spending their money.”

When asked what efforts can be done at the state level to address continued local calls for reform as it relates to racial bias and policing, including whether he supports calls from local Black Lives Matter groups to reallocate police funds, Keicher pointed to House Bill 5009, which is a proposal to establish 11 different emergency medical service zones across the state to allow for trained paramedics or social workers to go on calls instead of police.

“I value the work that our police officers do,” Keicher, the grandson of a police officer, said. “But we’re in a time right not where they’re being asked to do things that they never really were supposed to be doing. They’re getting into areas that really are beyond policing, more into social work.

Paul Stoddard, Democrat, District 70

Paul Stoddard is a retired Geology professor from Northern Illinois University, and is running for the second time after an unsuccessful District 70 race against Keicher in 2018. Stoddard’s also served District 9 on the DeKalb County Board for 13 years, and counts his efforts to ensure county board committees became more bipartisan as an accolade for elected office.

“It’s fair and it works,” he said. “That’s what politics is supposed to be. That’s the type of thinking and action I want to bring down to Springfield. The state today is facing some very serious challenges.”

He said as the state continues its efforts to mitigate COVID-19 spread amid the pandemic, making decisions based on science is the way to go.

Stoddard said he believes District 70’s most pressing issues are the health of its citizens and the health of its small businesses.

“These two things are not either or situations,” he said. “If we have an unhealthy populace, the business community is not going to be very healthy either. People need to be able to feel that they can safely go out, patronize our local businesses. The original lockdown was difficult but it was necessary. I think small businesses should have been allowed to stay open as long as they practiced masking and social distance protocols.”

When asked for his take on in-person schooling during the pandemic, Stoddard said he knows the toll it takes on working parents.

“I certainly understand desire to get kids back in schools, parents have jobs, they want to be able to go back to work, ensure they can put food on the table, daycare is very difficult at this time,” he said. “But we also have to keep in mind, the health of students, their parents, teachers, people and staff in those schools is also paramount. And kids even though they themselves are not as subject to the severe conditions of COVID, but they are carriers even if they don’t get it. They’re going to bring that home to their parents, grandparents, people they interact with.”

Stoddard said he believes a graduated income text would allow the state the flexibility to address issues of taxpayer burdens, and said he supports a change in the taxing structure.

“Yes we pay more than anybody else and that’s because we use local property taxes to fund our schools,” he said. “We rely more on that than any other state by far. Not only does this put a huge burden on land owners, business owners, but it also creates an inherently unfair educational system.”

He said more economically disadvantaged neighborhoods have a weaker tax base, and in turn have a poorly-funded public education system, and the system needs revamping.

“I think a graduated income tax is an essential part of that,” Stoddard said. “I’d like to see a roundup reformatting of our revenue stream. Our economy has changed, the sectors where we’re providing jobs are different than they were. We need to rethink our tax structure.”

When asked what efforts can be done at the state level to address continued local calls for reform as it relates to racial bias and policing, including whether he supports calls from local Black Lives Matter groups to reallocate police funds, Stoddard said he thinks they’re good ideas.

“A lot of what they’re proposing I think are really good ideas,” he said. “I appreciate greatly the good work that most of our police officers, sheriff’s deputies are doing. This is not an easy job, these folks tend to see the worst in people, I can see where it might be easy to get a little jaded.”

Stoddard said he supports better screening of potential police officers, a zero tolerance policy for officers who abuse use of force policies, and trained social workers going on crisis calls.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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