By John F. Di Leo -
On the campaign trail Saturday, we visited with Republican candidates Stephanie Trussell, Chris Dargis, and Tommy Hanson…
This is an unusual election year, and not for the usual reasons.
Midterms have a certain dynamic, as it’s a different environment to have a US Senate candidate at the top of the ticket, as opposed to a presidential candidate as in leap years.
And the “2” years – 2002, 2012, 2022 – are always a challenge because it’s the first year with a new map, so all the candidates and their respective constituencies are just beginning to learn the new districts, both for Congress and the state legislatures.
But it’s an especially odd season for Illinois, because we are accustomed to spring primaries, and for the first time, Illinois had a summer primary this year, just under two weeks ago, on June 28.
Campaigns are normally fully engaged by now, in general election mode. Summer can be prime campaigning season – but not when the nominees aren’t even identified until July. Primaries this late are often thought of as incumbency protection plans, nothing else. They shorten the campaign season to just a few months, making everything easier for incumbents and harder for challengers… as if incumbents didn’t have enough advantages already.
This writer attended an election meeting presented by the Arlington Heights Tea Party on Saturday, July 9. In a welcome change of pace, this was an outdoor event, on a beautiful day. Instead of the usual backdrop of curtains and hotel meeting room walls, this was in a public park, with the candidates carrying a hand-held mic, surrounded by green hedges and public gardens. This is what summer political events ought to look like.
There were three speakers at this one, all challengers.
- Stephanie Trussell, the Chicago native and radio personality running for Lieutenant Governor along with downstate Gubernatorial candidate and current state senator, Darren Bailey,
- Chris Dargis, a former nuclear engineer and intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy, who has worked in eCommerce at places like Talbots and Cars.com, and is now running for Congress in the new 8th district, and
- Tommy Hanson, a Chicago commercial real estate broker, who has served as a sacrificial lamb in past campaigns when the 5th district was all-city, but he now may have a shot as the 5th district has been redrawn to go from Old Town in Chicago all the way to suburban Lake Zurich.
All three are challenging incumbents. The Bailey/Trussell ticket is running against the deep pockets of Governor J.B. “Second Helping” Pritzker and Juliana Stratton. Chris Dargis is challenging Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, who was first elected in 2016; Tommy Hanson is running against Rep. Mike Quigley, who has held that seat since 2009.
It would be dishonest to pretend the incumbents don’t have an advantage. Money, press, name recognition, voter registration and abundant patronage workers all favor the Democrats in these three races.
But it would be equally dishonest for the Democrats to assume a cakewalk. 2022 is a year of 40-year record-setting inflation, foreign wars and domestic turmoil, and a nationwide crime wave with Chicago as its epicenter. The voters know enough to see where the blame lies: with the daily policy blunders of both federal and state government, both of which are in notorious Democrat hands.
The audience, therefore, is challenged with the question: is it reasonable to assume a red wave here, even here, in what is assumed to be a solid blue state?
Well, frankly, yes. That doesn’t mean that hard blue districts will all flip red, of course. We must live in the real world. But in a year in which most of the middle is expected to vote Republican, a year in fact in which many Democrats are voting Republican, it is reasonable to expect swing seats to go red, and even some – maybe not many, but some – solid Democrat seats to flip as well, even in Illinois. All three speakers made mention of the earth-shaking special election in Texas last month, in which Republican Mayra Flores won a border district Congressional seat that had been in Democrat hands for over a century.
What would it take to make that happen in Illinois? Today’s candidates were all in agreement on that.
- Hard work from every Republican candidate, much harder than usual.
- A serious focus on reducing vote fraud, which everyone (even Democrats until recently) acknowledges to be standard operating procedure for Illinois Democrats. Even if they deny it elsewhere, they can't get away with denying it here.
- Focus on the issues that matter to everyone: inflation, gas prices, home heating and A/C bills, crime. The issues that can’t be hidden, that can’t be explained away, that can’t be denied.
- Make the most of the new district lines, where legislative races feel like open seats because even an incumbent may be completely unknown to the new areas of his district.
- Simply reminding the voters of who the alternative is. Not only do Republicans have the right answers, but never before has it been so obvious that the Democrats have the wrong ones. Joe Biden and JB Pritzker will be millstones tied to the entire Democratic Party slate.
The mood at this meeting was upbeat, despite uninspiring turnout. The general election campaign, postponed by the late primary, is just now beginning in earnest, and each candidate had a very different style, though there was general agreement on the major issues in this very unified Republican ticket.
Stephanie Trussell, Candidate for Illinois Lieutenant Governor
Mrs. Trussell admitted to being a bit rusty, as this was her first event since the primary. But you wouldn’t know it; her experience as host of radio talk shows enabled her to be totally at ease with the microphone in this untraditional setting, as she took the opportunity to start with the story of her own childhood, growing up in Chicago.
She stressed the need to communicate the conservative message, a message that was hard to find in her day, in her neighborhoods, and is all but buried today in this world of a single-message, leftist establishment. As a descendent of enslaved persons, as she put it, it’s critical that the message of freedom, of individual, free market opportunity, is proudly and clearly advocated by Republican candidates.
Mrs. Trussell had a disturbing story to share, highlighting the challenge a Republican has as a candidate in Chicago. She said her mother proudly went into the polling place, and requested a Republican primary ballot so she could vote for her daughter. The election judges gave her a hard time, as Republican ballots are heavily discouraged in much of Chicago. Then, when she finally completed her ballot, the judges wouldn’t let her put it in the machine herself, they told her they just gathered them and set them aside to be counted after the polls closed. Her mother didn’t know her rights in these matters, so no hotline or press were called.
This is what Republicans are up against in Chicago, she reminded us; this is why this side has to work harder, not only as candidates and volunteers, but once GOP candidates are back in office, once they have the governor’s office again, Illinois needs serious reforms to secure our elections, both in the casting of ballots and in the counting later.
When asked what she and Senator Bailey expect to be able to accomplish in office, she was refreshingly honest:
She didn’t promise a laundry list of changes that need to go through the legislature, because she admitted, “we’re in minority status in the assembly and senate,” but even so, going forward, there are numerous, powerful boards that are appointed by the governor. As soon as he takes office, Mr. Bailey “gets to fire everybody” and replace them with competent, sensible replacements, to change direction in the state’s executive departments.
For example, she continued, “Nothing is more important to me than the education board at this point. That’s something that I’m very passionate about.” Why? Because her own kids’ education is what motivated her personally to move out to the suburbs. She identifies with the concerned parents of Illinois; she knows their fears, and their hopes for their children.
The fact that Darren Bailey can appoint the right people to these boards, correcting the direction of our state government, is in itself reason enough to change horses this year, and replace J.B. Pritzker’s radical bureaucrats with a fresh team that appreciates the free market, the Constitution, the American idea.
Mrs. Trussell stressed that another area in which the governor’s office can succeed, even with an opposition legislature, is in the budgeting process. She reminds us that Senator Bailey served on a school board for 17 years, then opened a school of his own, before his recent four years of state legislative service. He therefore has over 20 years of experience managing and analyzing government budgets, and is committed to bringing Illinois back to traditional, zero-based budgeting.
She reminds her audience that everyone is fleeing Illinois – white collar, blue collar, both businesses and the employees who work for them… largely because of our skyrocketing tax collections. Indiana has roads, police, schools, but they don’t see this kind of escalation in property taxes. “If even California, Indiana and Texas can cap their property taxes,” she asks, “why can’t we?”
And what is the goal of the Bailey-Trussell campaign, if elected? In light of the host of problems – from small towns beset with fentanyl and crystal meth, to big cities plagued with crime and poverty, to businesses and individuals crippled by taxes, she says, "We're just trying to make Illinois home again, for people who want to stay here, and for people who want to come here!"
Chris Dargis, Candidate for Congress, Illinois 8th Congressional District
There was a time when Chicago’s northwest suburbs all shared the same Congressman; no longer. With one of the most gerrymandered Congressional maps in Illinois history, the northwest suburbs are carved up into five districts… the township where this particular meeting took place, Wheeling Township, is split into four.
Chris Dargis is running in the new 8th district, currently represented by longtime Barack Obama aide and ally, Raja Krishnamoorthi, who was born in India and raised in Buffalo, NY and Peoria, IL.
Mr. Dargis, by contrast, was born in Chicago and raised in Schaumburg, so he spent his youth in the district he seeks to represent. He served six years active duty as a nuclear engineer in the U.S. Navy, then entered the private sector, remaining in the Naval Reserves for fourteen more years as a Naval Intelligence officer, ultimately retiring as a Lieutenant Commander.
As an executive in the business world, he focused on the very modern arena of ecommerce, holding such positions at GNC.com, Pizza Hut, and Talbots.
On Saturday, Mr. Dargis focused on the fact that energy is the foundation of the American economy, and extremist Democrat policies have caused every energy problem we face today, from high gasoline and diesel prices to electric grid insufficiency, to the transportation costs that drive inflation across the board. He brings his experience as a nuclear engineer to the table, as he can work in the new Congress to undo the destructive policies of the Democrats and restore America to its recent position of energy independence.
Mr. Dargis recognizes the broad array of issues that the federal legislature must address:
On Crime: “Democrat policies on crime are creating a revolving door; the police are doing their job, but liberal prosecutors put the criminals right back on the street to continue making our communities unsafe.”
On Republican Outreach: “The Republican Party stands for equal opportunity to achieve the American dream – regardless of race, creed or color. I think the change we’ve seen over the past few years is that this message is finally starting to get out more. We’re communicating better to the groups who, frankly, it benefits the most: those on the lower end of the economic spectrum… the policies espoused by the Republican Party are there to lift all boats.”
On Energy: “The problem is, the Democrats’ extreme ideology only supports a wind-and-solar economy, the technologies that are the least developed, least effective, and least reliable in meeting our energy needs. I support an all-of-the-above energy policy: Drill for more oil and gas; bring more supply onto the market to lower costs. We CAN do that, safely and effectively, and in an environmentally sound manner. What we need to do, to produce long-term energy sustainability and independence, is to bring nuclear power back to the table. It’s safe; it’s reliable, and it is the only green technology that is scalable to meet the needs of this country.”
On Inflation: “It’s caused directly by the Democrat policies coming out of Washington D.C. Even President Obama’s own economic advisor said that these trillion-dollar special interest giveaways would cause inflation, and that’s exactly what they did – lining the pockets of special interests to give money to the politically connected… When I get to Washington, we’re going to end the special interest giveaways, we’re going to get spending back under control, and we’re going to bring inflation down, to ease the burden on Illinois families.”
Tommy Hanson, Candidate for Congress, Illinois 5th Congressional District
Unlike the day’s two other speakers, Tommy Hanson has run before. Born in Chicago and educated at New Trier High School, he has watched Illinois’ problems grow over the decades. Despite the old map making the district impossible, he served as the Republican nominee for the 5th district in 2008, 2018, and 2020, to give the voters a choice, and to make sure that at least the Republican viewpoint was presented.
This year, however, as the district now reaches all the way from Old Town to Lake Zurich and Barrington, there just might be enough new territory in this new map, enough Republicans to constitute a base, for the needed red wave of independents and crossovers to put him over the top in November.
He has an interesting biography. Before settling into the career of commercial real estate brokerage, he worked in publishing, having been with the Chicago Tribune, US News and World Report, and Outdoor Life. He knows the district and its people well… and with such journalism experience, the issues of national and international affairs that a Congressman confronts are already in his wheelhouse.
With the city of Chicago serving as the core of his district, as one might imagine, the rule of law, both federal and local, is high on his list of concerns. Enforcing the law at home, in Chicago, and returning to strict adherence to the Constitution in Washington, constitute the path to reclaiming the strong, independent America that our Founding Fathers intended for us.
“The crux of what you have in America right now,” said Mr. Hanson, “is that many people have lost the very concept of what the Constitution is about… our Founders’ firm belief that the only way the Constitution would survive is if people believed in Judeo-Christian values – the Ten Commandments.”
“What’s happening today?” he asks. “The bars are full and the churches are empty. We’re relying on man-made ideas out of Washington, D.C., so that people will rely only on the government. When people again rely on God – like our Founders did – that’s how America will succeed, as it has succeeded in the past.”
Tommy Hanson shared his thoughts on several of the major issues as well:
On Illegal Immigration: “It’s a big problem for the country, obviously; the US has legal entry points, but we have massive numbers coming over illegally… some of them have criminal history; some are sexual predators, some are transporting people for prostitution, some are terrorists… so this is IS a valid concern for all Americans. The most basic way to address it is to complete the wall. It’s just not fair that people who follow U.S. rules and regulations are sitting in the back of the line while the illegals are getting preferred by Washington DC, preferred by the Left!“
On America’s Future: “The only way America is going to survive is if people believe in the Constitution – which was inspired by God. A lot of successful, honest, good, trustworthy people go to Washington DC – but then they get corrupted. The only way people aren’t going to get corrupted is if they truly believe in the Constitution… it’s a moral compass, a conscience for the legislator.”
On Crime: “Right here in the 5th Congressional District right now, people are worried about their safety! They’re worried about getting shot, about getting robbed, even about being hit as an innocent bystander… America is going off course.”
On Budgetary Discipline: “Chicago has over $50 billion in unfunded liabilities; Illinois has over $250 billion in unfunded liabilities… and during the pandemic, the Mayor of Chicago and the Governor of Illinois were rejoicing, proud of themselves because Washington DC gave them the money just to plug that doughnut, while in other parts of the country, mainly red states, they are thriving… the red states are doing really well – they’re prosperous, they’re making money. People are going to work, enjoying the fruits of their labor. We know what works.”
A General Election Campaign
Common themes, shared by the three candidates, included fiscal discipline from government, ballot integrity in elections, a crackdown on crime, and the traditional Republican call for the principles of limited government on which the nation was based.
Even though the general election campaign has only just begun, it will soon be a whirlwind, as people start casting their ballots in just three short months.
Illinois has about 12.7 million residents, though it’s shedding them by the hour. That’s a lot of people to reach in three months.
Polling, issues and circumstances all point to sweeping changes in November, but the candidates all seem to know better than to take anything for granted.
Copyright 2022 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based trade compliance trainer and transportation manager, writer, and actor. A one-time county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, he has been writing regularly for Illinois Review since 2009.
A collection of John’s Illinois Review articles about vote fraud, The Tales of Little Pavel, and his 2021 political satires about current events, Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Volumes One and Two, are available, in either paperback or eBook, only on Amazon.
Don’t miss an article! Use the free tool in the margin to sign up for Illinois Review’s free email notification service, so that you always know when we publish new content!
Senate Republicans go along with changing the Electoral Count Act which proves Pence had the power the block certification. I can’t take any more betrayals.
What’s being over looked by candidates on the campaign trail is Illinois’ nation leading almost 9,000 units of local governments. No other state comes close to this number. For one example let’s look at Texas, a state that has a much larger population and many more square miles, which has about 5,300 units of government. Illinois has 1,433 units of township government alone. Texas does NOT have one unit of township government. If Texas, and every other state can function with fewer governments, why can’t Illinois. Think about all the guaranteed tax savings and the reduction of government corruption.
Bob, I agree. I’ve lived in nine states (CA, CO, KS, OK, AR, IL, OH, NV, and WI). In eight of them (all except Illinois), city governments manage parks and libraries. In eight of those states (all except Illinois), each school district has at least one high school, at least one junior high, and at least one elementary school. I was surprised when I moved to Illinois and learned that, in most of Illinois, there are library boards and park boards, all of whom levy property taxes. I was also surprised when I heard that Illinois has many school districts that have one school, each.
I think that the other states are more efficient, causing them to have lower property tax levies, compared to Illinois. Why does Illinois have that unusual system, with so many governments? I hope that Sen. Baily will propose decreasing the number of governments and ensuring that Illinois will be more efficient, like the other states.