With state Rep. Karen May not running for re-election for the first time since winning the 58th District seat in 2000, two Lake Forest Republicans are hoping to turn the longtime Democratic district red in 2012.
Lauren Turelli, 40, has worked as a teacher, is a board member for Lake Forest Parks & Recreation and ran against May in 2010, getting 43 percent of the vote.
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Mark Neerhof, 53, is an obstetrician with NorthShore University Health System and an associate professor at the University of Chicago medical school. This race is Neerhof's first foray into politics, and he said his medical background makes him a good candidate to reform the state's health care issues.
Whichever candidate wins the March primary will face Democrat Scott Drury, a lawyer and assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Illinois. Drury, 38, of Highwood was considering a run for Lake County state's attorney but joined the 58th race when May announced she would not be running in September. He has her endorsement.
Turelli said that over time she has become dismayed by what she says is corruption in state politics, inspiring her to join the race in 2010 and again this year.
Neerhof said he was drawn to the race because of health care issues, specifically President Barack Obama's health care program, which he said should be overturned.
"I got into this race because it's the right thing to do," Neerhof said. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to get in and fix health care."
Neerhof is also an executive board member and founder of the Illinois chapter of Docs4PatientCare, a national organization of doctors committed to patient freedom and repealing Obama's health care program. He appointed Arie Friedman, a Highland Park Republican running for the 29th District state Senate seat, president of the state chapter.
"You don't need to be a doctor to reform Medicaid," Turelli said. Both candidates support creating a need-based managed care system.
Creating jobs and attracting businesses to the 58th District are important issues for both, though they have differing ideas on reaching that goal.
"Illinois is becoming an increasingly unfavorable environment for business," Neerhof said, adding that he thinks taxes and regulations need to be reduced or eliminated to attract and keep businesses.
Both candidates said they are opposed to raising taxes, but Turelli has been endorsed by Taxpayers United.
Turelli has suggested creating partnerships between school districts, community colleges and local corporations to create jobs and help students further their education.
Turelli and Neerhof also both support charter schools, voucher programs and merit-based teacher pay.
"It's more than just funding. The funds are there; it's how they're being used." Turelli said.
While Turelli said she will try to work within the systems already in place in Springfield to fix problems, Neerhof said complete overhauls of education, pensions and health care are needed.
The candidates also differ over campaign contributions. Turelli said contributions should be limited to keep elections fair. "Money equals power in Illinois," she said.
Neerhof said campaign contributions are a freedom of speech issue that should not be limited.
Neerhof collected $75,000 through Dec. 31, according to the latest filings with the State Board of Elections, but $45,000 of that money was donated or loaned from Neerhof himself. He ended the quarter with about $54,000 on hand.
Neerhof said he doesn't have a personal limit on how much he is willing to spend on the race but that he is "committed to win."
Turelli's Dec. 31 total was about $34,000, but she has spent only about $1,500.
Both candidates support House Republican Leader Tom Cross's three-tier pension plan as a first step to cut spending and reform the pension system but said more needs to be done.
Turelli and Neerhof both said that new employees should be added into a pension system similar to the 401(k) system used in the private sector.
Both candidates support passing concealed carry laws but said they are not overly concerned with social issues that typically draw the line between Republicans and Democrats.
"Unless we figure out our financial state, we don't need to talk about anything else," Turelli said.
After redistricting, the 58th District is centered mostly in Lake County covering parts of North Chicago, Lake Forest, Lincolnshire, Deerfield, Highland Park, Northbrook and Glencoe.