Would either Arlington Heights candidate be a Springfield insider?
The two candidates for outgoing state Rep. David Harris' 53rd House District seat have each tried to deflect criticism that, if elected, they'd be controlled by Springfield insiders.
For first-time candidate Eddie Corrigan, 29, of Arlington Heights, that's meant fending off campaign mailers from Democratic opponent Mark Walker calling Corrigan "a political operative who was hand-picked by his party bosses to protect the status quo."
"I'm coming at this race as somewhat of an outsider," said Corrigan, outreach coordinator for Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam. "Someone who hasn't been down in Springfield. Someone who hasn't been part of the old Springfield gang. Someone who's looking at this from a young person's point of view -- a fresh point of view."
For Walker, 70, committeeman of the Wheeling Township Democratic Organization, it's been about emphasizing his independence from powerful House Speaker Mike Madigan. Walker, an Arlington Heights resident, served in the House from 2009 to 2011 and, after redistricting, lost in a head-to-head race against Harris.
On the way out, Walker voted for a Madigan-backed state income tax increase, but he says he voted against the speaker on other contentious bills.
"Speaker Madigan, Gov. (Bruce) Rauner and now (House Republican Minority) Leader (Jim) Durkin exercise most power over representatives who desire careers in politics," Walker wrote in a Daily Herald candidate questionnaire. "I made my career elsewhere, have no great ambitions at this point other than to serve the public, and therefore Madigan has little leverage over me."
Walker and Corrigan both say they would not have run had Harris decided to seek re-election. But he didn't, in face of a likely GOP primary challenge because of his vote last year to approve an income tax increase.
Harris hasn't publicly endorsed either candidate, but both Corrigan and Walker say they often talk with Harris and get along with him well.
The two opponents also promise to work across the aisle if elected. Corrigan, who likely would be in the GOP minority, said he would gain the trust of the other side by picking a nonpartisan issue to work on, like the opioid epidemic.
Walker touted bipartisan bills he sponsored in Springfield, including legislation to remove fraud from the Medicaid system, to reform procurements and to help small businesses.
"This district is a very competitive district in terms of voters' attitudes," Walker said. "If it's not 50/50, it probably leans Republican a little bit. I have to represent the district. That's been what I did before and what I would do again."
The 53rd District includes parts of Arlington Heights, Des Plaines, Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights and Wheeling.