The race for the 54th House District seat features a freshman lawmaker and a political newcomer with very different fiscal views and polar opposite social positions.
Republican state Rep. Tom Morrison, a small-business owner elected in 2011, ran unopposed in the GOP primary. Challenging him in the Nov. 6 general election is union carpenter Richard Rudd, slated by his party after no candidate ran in the Democratic primary.
Morrison, 37, said his priorities if re-elected would be reforming the pension and Medicaid systems and improving the state's business climate to reduce unemployment and grow the overall economy.
Rudd, 52, said creating more middle-class jobs is his top issue, followed by increasing funding for education and cutting down on commute times.
A married father of three boys, Rudd said he decided to run because the legislature seems to have reached a stalemate. He said the state should consider helping small- and medium-sized businesses get loans by guaranteeing them, knowing some will fold, a move he believes would help businesses grow and hire more people.
"I know we're going to go into debt, but I want to make sure people get a decent wage," Rudd said. "Unless the jobs are there, we're stuck."
Meanwhile, Morrison said he wants to continue efforts toward more significant pension reform. He sought a seat on the House pension committee when elected.
In the short term, he said the state should suspend cost-of-living increases until pension funds are at least 85 percent funded. Morrison also said current workers will eventually need to transition to a hybrid pension plan that includes a 401(k) component.
Rudd said another reason he's running is Morrison's "extremist" views on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, concealed carry and the death penalty.
Morrison said he makes no secret about his beliefs, including his position that Illinois should define life as beginning at conception because there's a completely new and unique set of DNA.
He said he respects his constituents enough to engage in "healthy dialogue" about social issues but adds he's most concerned with legislation aimed at improving the state's finances and economic climate.
The 54th House District includes portions of Arlington Heights, Barrington, Inverness, Hoffman Estates, Palatine and Rolling Meadows.