With a familiar political theme of reducing government debt, reforming the state pension system and creating new jobs, Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay made her candidacy for the new 33rd District State Senate seat official Wednesday.
In doing so, she may have reignited a battle between two former political rivals within her own party.
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McConnaughay made her announcement while surrounded by about 30 supporters next to West Dundee's riverwalk. She laid out a campaign platform based on the premise that Illinois would look a lot better if the state government ran more like she's helped run Kane County government.
McConnaughay pointed to lower county employee head counts without a reduction in service and a bumpy, but fiscally responsible, ride so far through the poor economy of the last few years as highlights of her accomplishments.
She railed against state increases to the corporate income tax and vowed to support a repeal of the recent 2-percentage-point increase in the individual income tax.
She called for state lawmakers to target a handful of state agencies, departments and programs every year for a zero-based budgeting review of their spending practices.
"It's impossible for me to believe that you can't find efficiencies in state government," McConnaughay said. "We can do better. We have the resources, and we have the wherewithal. We're an economic powerhouse that has much untapped potential. I have never been one to dwell in the rhetoric of despair. I want to restore a heritage of economic success."
McConnaughay's announcement also may spark round two of a political rivalry that began when former Congressman J. Dennis Hastert retired early. When that happened, State Sen. Chris Lauzen and dairy magnate Jim Oberweis did battle in the Republican primary to replace him.
Oberweis beat Lauzen in that race, but eventually lost to Democrat Bill Foster. Oberweis is now an Illinois Republican Party State Central Committee member. Both he and Lauzen said Wednesday they are measuring the levels of public support they could expect in a race for McConnaughay's chairman seat.
"I have always been interested in doing what I can to help my country and our state," Oberweis said. "To be honest with you, a lot of people have called me to ask me to run for the position. We're giving it serious thought. It's a position I believe I would be successful in."
Lauzen said he'll weigh the chairman seat against continuing on in the state senate. Republicans generally believe the redistricted version of Lauzen's state senate seat make his re-election a virtual lock.
But Lauzen already has formulated a platform to run for Kane County Board chairman if that's his decision. The first plank of the platform, Lauzen said, is seeing county government accept some responsibility for higher property taxes at a time of lower property values.
"People who recognize what's driving that know it's government spending," Lauzen said. "I've been fighting against that for 19 years. That would be one of the themes of a contribution. Another would be respectful treatment of people who are independently elected to office. County board members they deserve respect among each other. There has to be a sense of working together to get that spending in check. And honest, competent administration would be a third priority. That comes from character and independence."