Dist. 52 candidates curtail campaign spending
Two years ago, voters in the 52nd House District were in the middle of a full-scale political ad bombardment.
Vying for the office was David McSweeney, an investment banker from Barrington Hills, fresh off an expensive three-way primary battle for the Republican nomination, and Dee Beaubien, the widow of Mark Beaubien, who held the seat for 14 years until his death in 2011.
According to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, the race was the Illinois House's most expensive in the 2012 election, with the candidates and their supporters pouring more than $2 million into their bids.
Dee Beaubien, who was running as an independent, received significant financial support from state Democrats, led by House Speaker Michael Madigan, and ended up spending $1,054,256. McSweeney, who had previously run unsuccessfully for Congress in 2006, contributed $646,672 of his own money to the race. He went on to win with 59 percent of the vote.
This time around, the campaign spending is decidedly more one-sided.
"I haven't taken any money from anybody," said Bill Downs, the Democrat campaigning for McSweeney's seat this year.
Downs, an information technology manager from Cary, said the only aid he has accepted in his grass-roots campaign has been from friends and family who go door to door in the district on his behalf.
"I don't think that money should be in politics," Downs said. "I think it should all be about the people in the district and the issues."
McSweeney, who at the end of June had $125,177 in his campaign coffers and has added at least $28,000 more since, said his main focus is the state's spending.
During his first two years in Springfield, McSweeney voted for spending cuts both big and small. Among the smallest was his proposal to eliminate the position of lieutenant governor.
McSweeney voted against the final 2013 pension-cutting deal sponsored by Madigan, calling it weak and arguing it won't save the state as much money as supporters promised. Earlier in the year, he voted for a different plan with deeper pension cuts.
"It's such an important issue. It drives everything," McSweeney said. "We can't solve the financial issues of the state without addressing pensions."
Downs said some of the proposed Republican budget cuts would be too deep and affect too many people. Instead, he said he would consider switching the state pension system to a 401(k) style retirement plan, and he would bring all sides to the table for such discussions.
Downs said he supports extending the 2011 state income tax hike, which is set to expire after this year, but would not want to make it permanent. McSweeney said he wants to see the tax increase eliminated.
The 52nd House District contains parts of Cook, Lake, Kane and McHenry counties, and covers all or 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.