The three-way GOP primary for the 52nd District Illinois House seat formerly held by Mark Beaubien of Barrington features candidates who boast very different backgrounds, but similar sentiments on the dire state of Illinois' finances.
State Rep. Kent Gaffney, appointed last June after Beaubien's death, faces challenges from political veteran David McSweeney and newcomer Danielle Rowe.
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Gaffney, 45, said that after working as Illinois House Republican budget director for more than a decade, he found himself wanting a vote. The Lake Barrington resident said he'd be part of just about every leadership meeting, only to spend time getting legislators with the final say-so up to speed.
"I think that legislators need to be more part of the decision process," Gaffney said. "I can apply my knowledge from the last decade."
Gaffney, who has the support of Illinois House Republican leader Tom Cross, said he's finally able to focus on bringing resources to his far Northwest suburban district, as opposed to "fighting for road projects down in Carbondale, Ill." He said that as the pie diminishes in terms of what's available, he'll work to keep equitable funding.
McSweeney, 46, returns to the political ring after taking a break to focus on his family and work as an investment banker. He ran for the 8th District Congressional seat in 1998 and 2006, winning the Republican primary in his most recent bid only for Democrat Melissa Bean to defeat him in the general election.
The Barrington Hills resident, who at age 29 was elected a Palatine Township trustee, said he's remained politically active by helping state Sens. Matt Murphy of Palatine and Dan Duffy of Lake Barrington with their campaigns. He also was a visible supporter of U.S. Sen. John McCain during his presidential run, and said the Arizona lawmaker will headline one of his campaign events in March.
McSweeney said that when the debate began over the federal debt ceiling last year, he decided to get back into public service, believing Springfield needs more legislators with business expertise.
"I understand budgets and what needs to be done to create jobs in the state," McSweeney said.
Rowe, 39, is making her first official bid to hold public office, though she did interview for Beaubien's seat.
The Island Lake marketing executive said she felt compelled to start volunteering for the Republican Party after the Sept. 11 attacks, and has since worked with various veterans causes. She became involved in the Tea Party movement, drawn to its activism and fiscally conservative stances, and recently received the Illinois Tea Party's endorsement.
Rowe helped coordinate efforts to support Republicans during the 2011 Wisconsin recall election and took part in rallies opposing Illinois' income tax hike.
She said she has deep roots in the 52nd District, and is tired of watching the neighbors and small businesses she grew up with struggle to prosper.
"As long as they continue to tax us and regulate businesses to where they can't survive, people will uproot their families and leave and businesses will shut their doors," Rowe said.
The 52nd House District covers parts of Barrington, Island Lake, Oakwood Hills, Wauconda, North Barrington, Lake in the Hills, Fox River Grove, Trout Valley, Algonquin, Barrington Hills, South Barrington, Cary and Crystal Lake.