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updated: 11/2/2012 12:31 PM

53rd District candidates running frugal campaigns this time

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  • David Harris, left, opposes Curt Renz for the 53rd District House seat.

    David Harris, left, opposes Curt Renz for the 53rd District House seat.


What a difference two years make.

When Republican David Harris defeated one-term incumbent Mark Walker for a seat in the Illinois House two years ago, the campaigns spent a combined $1 million.

This year Harris has raised well under $50,000, and his opponent, Democrat Curt Renz, not a penny.

Redistricting has moved Harris into a newly drawn 53rd district, which he acknowledges "leans Republican."

In fact, no Democrat ran in the primary, and Renz, who is semiretired as an author and television host dealing with investment issues, got on the ballot through appointment. Both candidates live in Arlington Heights.

Democratic leaders drew the districts, and neighboring ones are much more contentious, attracting funds in the neighborhood of $500,000 in some races.

"When it became obvious that I was going to get no financial support from the Illinois Democrats or special interest groups, I did not feel I could in good conscious ask for money from individuals," Renz said.

However, he thinks his 16 years anchoring the daily Stock Market Observer program on WCIU-TV in Chicago gives him name recognition.

Renz said it is his job as a candidate to present a more liberal attitude on social issues, including gay rights and abortion. He said he, like Harris, considers himself a fiscal conservative.

Harris has been riding a Segway door to door in the new parts of the district, which include northern Arlington Heights and half of Prospect Heights. Southern Arlington Heights and an area of Mount Prospect that shifted from the 56th to the 53rd, which now also takes in some of Des Plaines.

He's also campaigning on behalf of Republican Susan Sweeney, who is running against Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan in the 55th district. Harris currently represents part of that district.

Harris started the year with $37,000, according to reports filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections. The largest donation he received this year is $10,000 from Stand for Children, a political action committee that works for education reform.

He also received $2,000 from the Illinois Retail Merchants PAC Team and $2,500 from the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois PAC. All other contributions are $1,000 or less, including those from Arlington Park and Casino Queen of East St. Louis.

His expenses this year have totaled $16,500, including rent, yard signs, staff salary and palm cards.

Two years ago Walker spent $687,900 and Harris $380,000, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. Large chunks of both campaign chests came from their respective political parties.

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