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updated: 1/27/2014 4:16 PM

Downers Grove Republicans trade barbs in 81st House race

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  • Two Downers Grove Republicans, incumbent Ron Sandack, left, and challenger Keith Matune, are seeking the GOP nomination for the 81st state House District seat in the March 18 GOP primary.

       Two Downers Grove Republicans, incumbent Ron Sandack, left, and challenger Keith Matune, are seeking the GOP nomination for the 81st state House District seat in the March 18 GOP primary.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Ron Sandack

      Ron Sandack

  • Keith Matune

      Keith Matune

  • Video: 81st House candidates

 
 

The race for the Republican nomination in the 81st state House district, which covers the Downers Grove and Naperville area, already is a bitter one with each candidate questioning his opponent's character.

Incumbent state Rep. Ron Sandack is being challenged in the March 18 GOP primary election by Keith Matune, a teacher in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 and a school board member in Downers Grove District 99.

Matune, 44, of Downers Grove, said he's running because Sandack's voting record indicates the incumbent is more of a "Chicago Democrat" than a DuPage County Republican.

During an endorsement interview with the Daily Herald, Matune cited Sandack's votes in favor of gay marriage and the cuts approved in December to public pensions as examples of instances in which his opponent has sided with Democratic Speaker of the House Mike Madigan.

"How many times do you need to vote with Mike Madigan to be a Chicago Democrat?" Matune said. "When you vote for the Madigan pension bill, when you vote to expand gambling, when you vote for same-sex marriage, when you vote for the Amazon tax, when you vote for all of these things, you're basically voting as the Democrats do ... That's just not what our residents of the 81st District want. They want a clear, concise difference. They don't want to elect a Democrat."

Sandack, 49, of Downers Grove, called Matune's claim that he is voting as a Chicago Democrat "preposterous." He said he chooses how to vote based on his conscience and the views of people in the district.

In some cases, Sandack said he has changed his mind because "if you're going to go to Springfield and you're going to be a hard-line, platform-rigid person, you're not going to get anything done."

Sandack, meanwhile, is questioning Matune's honesty based on the fact the challenger failed to admit on a Daily Herald candidate questionnaire to being arrested in 1991.

DuPage County court records show Matune was arrested May 3, 1991, and charged with being a fugitive from justice. Records show Matune paid $2,000 bond before the case was dismissed.

"I'll suggest it's a disqualifier," Sandack said about the arrest. "I didn't know about that, and I didn't care about that until it came out later on that he was less than truthful and, of course, that became part of the story. Do I think that disqualifies him? I think it shows a problem in character, yes."

Matune's campaign said in a statement he was pulled over for having a broken headlight and was told during the stop there was an out-of-state warrant for his arrest stemming from a $150 check he had written that was returned for nonsufficient funds.

During the endorsement interview with the Daily Herald, Matune said he answered the paper's candidate questionnaire honestly when he wrote "no" to a question asking if he ever had been arrested. He said his understanding was that the traffic stop and subsequent court proceedings 23 years ago were not an arrest. Matune said the Illinois State Police database has no record of his arrest and nothing of the sort has shown up in criminal background checks conducted on him because he is a teacher.

"I don't recall being photographed, I was not put into handcuffs. I don't remember any of those things," Matune said. "What I do remember is being scared. Scared because I had just gotten pulled over. I had never had any incidents with the police and here they are saying there's a warrant and I'm a fugitive from justice. I was scared as a 20-year-old kid."

Sandack and Matune are competing for the Republican nomination to represent the 81st district, which includes parts of Naperville, Lisle, Downers Grove, Bolingbrook, Darien, Westmont and Woodridge. The winner of the primary March 18 will advance to the Nov. 4 general election. No Democrat has filed petitions to enter the race.

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