Republican voters in a portion of Lake County will choose between a state representative who holds two elected jobs and a politically active challenger in next month's primary.
Fremont Township Assessor Ed Sullivan Jr., the House District 51 incumbent, and Bob Bednar are similar in opposing an extension of the state's income tax hike after it's due to expire in January 2015. They also pan the idea of pursuing a progressive income tax.
However, both cite differences on same-sex marriage and other issues that may help voters decide if they take GOP primary ballots March 18.
Sullivan has been a state representative since 2002. Bednar, who lost to Democratic Lake County Recorder of Deeds Mary Ellen Vanderventer in 2012, is making his first try at a statewide office.
District 51 includes all or parts of Mundelein, Libertyville, Lake Zurich, Long Grove, Vernon Hills, Hawthorn Woods, Deer Park, Green Oaks, Barrington, Tower Lakes, North Barrington and Lake Barrington. Bednar and Sullivan addressed issues by recently participating in separate Daily Herald editorial board interviews and answering candidate questionnaires.
Sullivan attracted attention last year as one of three House Republicans to vote for same-sex marriage. He contends conservative groups supporting Bednar are attacking him on the issue.
"You would think there are better things to discuss in the primary," said Sullivan, who reiterated he didn't vote for gay marriage specifically because his mother-in-law is a lesbian.
Bednar, a school bus driver who has been active with the Lake County Republican Party, said while he doesn't support same-sex marriage, that is not why he's challenging Sullivan in the GOP primary. Bednar contends Sullivan is "the most liberal legislator in the state" more concerned about keeping personal power in Springfield.
"The essence of this job is to represent your district," Bednar said. "My district is not being represented right now."
Sullivan said he's been able to work in a vibrant, bipartisan manner in Springfield. He said Bednar would go in the opposite direction as "a mouthpiece" for one faction of Republicans regardless of what District 51 or the entire state needs.
Bednar said he'd have a chance to get something done by creating alliances with Republicans in line with his thinking and with freshman lawmakers elected to the House. He said Sullivan's 21-year job as Fremont Township assessor is part of what voters should examine in making a decision.
"The incumbent is a double-dipper," Bednar said. "He holds two government jobs that pay full-time salary, benefits and a double state pension. He is enriching himself at taxpayer expense. The incumbent is everything that is wrong with Illinois politics."
Sullivan said there is nothing wrong with him holding the two elected jobs and that he donates his assessor salary to a charity when working as a state legislator. He added he plans to collect only one pension when he retires from government work.
No Democratic candidates surfaced for that party to have a House District 51 primary, so it's unknown whether the Sullivan-Bednar winner would have competition in the November general election.