Five candidates — three Republicans and two Democrats — are vying to replace former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, who resigned in March amid questions about his use of taxpayer and campaign funds. The winners of Tuesday’s primaries will face off in a Sept. 10 general election.
–Michael Flynn, 47, is a conservative writer from Quincy who helped found the late blogger and commentator Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com. He has criticized the GOP “establishment” and says Congress has become “a chamber for the political class” with members who live “in a cocoon.” ”A seat in the House of Representatives is a sacred trust with the citizens,” Flynn wrote on his campaign website. “It is not a family heirloom to be handed down.”
–Darin LaHood, 46, is a state senator and former prosecutor from Dunlap. He describes himself as more conservative than his father, former U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, who also served in Barack Obama’s cabinet. He notes he’s the only candidate with a proven conservative voting record, which includes opposing Democratic budgets and tax increases and votes against the “Common Core” curriculum.
–Donald Rients, 51, of Benson, acknowledges the nearly $7,000 he’s raised isn’t much to campaign with, but believes people will relate to him because he has a day job as a technical coordinator at State Farm. He’s knocked on 3,000 doors, but only after work hours or if he has the vacation days. “You’re not going to see me taking selfies and posing for GQ and stuff like that,” said Rients, referencing Schock’s cover photo for Men’s Health magazine.
–Adam Lopez, 32, is a Springfield School Board member who has received county Democratic party endorsements and amassed roughly $8,000 for his campaign fund. His day job is as a financial representative for Country Financial. He says being the grandson of Mexican immigrants has shaped his perspective, and he has been focused on getting Democrats to vote early. “I would not be running If I didn’t think I could win,” he said.
–Robert Mellon, 44, is a high school teacher and veteran from Quincy who notes his Army service.
Both Mellon and Lopez said issues affecting the middle class and jobs will help draw out Democratic voters in the heavily Republican district, particularly in union-heavy areas. “When I go out and go door to door, people are really frustrated,” Mellon said. “Some are ready for a big change. They definitely have (Republican) leanings, but I think they’re open-minded.”
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