House race for district 115 features two third party candidates

By Jason Flynn, Staff Reporter

The Illinois state House of Representatives race for the 115th congressional district may be the most competitive the race has been in the last decade. 

The incumbent, Terri Bryant, is vacating the seat she’s held since 2014 to run a campaign for state senate, and three challengers, Randy Auxier of Murphysboro, Paul Jacobs of  Carbondale and Ian Peak of Mount Vernon, are all vying for the position.

The 115th district, which covers Mount Vernon and parts of the DuQuoin and Carbondale area, has been held by a Republican since its redistricting following the 2010 census. 

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Though that might seem to favor Jacobs — a Republican and the only major party candidate in the race — third-party candidates Auxier, of the Green Party, and Peak, a Libertarian, each believes they can win.

Historically, third-party candidates have found it difficult to win in Illinois races. The state’s ballot-access rules are more stringent than in other states.

Illinois requires new parties to identify candidates ahead of circulating any ballot petition, the petitions can only circulate for three months, and the signatures must be greater than 5% of the votes in the last election. The organization Fair Vote wrote that this is the seventh worst ballot access rule in the United States. 

The state’s ballot access rules have historically been more stringent than in other states. This means that while other states have seen wins from third party candidates, especially in local and state races, Illinois has no third party state congress representatives.

Auxier, a philosophy professor at SIU, ran on the Green Party ticket in a United States House District 12 race in 2018. 

He and the Democrat candidate, Brendan Kelly, lost that race to Republican candidate Mike Bost. 

Auxier said this year’s race is completely different.

“There’s no Democrat running this time and the Democrats are helping me quite a lot, which I appreciate,” Auxier said.

Auxier described Jackson County, which covers most of the southern part of the congressional district, as “light blue,” meaning it leans Democratic, with longstanding ties to union workers, organic farmers and a contingent of rural “hippies.”

Peak, who previously ran for Jefferson County Board, is from more conservative Mount Vernon. 

Peak said he followed Auxier’s 2018 campaign, and even voted for one of Auxier’s Green Party predecessors, Paula Bradshaw, but generally he disagrees with the Green Party platform.

The primary point of contention was taxes. 

Auxier supports instituting a progressive income tax plan and the “LaSalle Street Tax,” a speculation tax that would place a transaction fee on the trading of futures and futures options. Advocates say placing a $1 or $2 fee on these futures trades, which are over $225,000 on average, could raise up to $12 billion.

Peak said he sees these as the wrong direction for the state. While the ideas might seem good on paper, he said, he does not have faith in  state’s officials to manage that money effectively. 

Jacobs also shares Peak’s zeal for the tax issue, as he said he sees it as a matter of effective business management.

“I’ve spent 40 years in my optometry practice, balancing books every month, making certain that we didn’t overspend, making certain that we had enough money to spend for what we needed,” Jacobs said. “Twenty-five years in my winery, brewery, restaurant, etc. we balanced the budget every month, and that’s what you have to do.”

Auxier said he also feels Illinois has had budget management issues and wants to see them addressed. 

“Here’s the thing, the state constitution is not protecting us now from being overtaxed. We are in fact over taxed. That is a fact that almost everyone can agree on,” Auxier said. “They’ve mismanaged the state for a hundred years, and the voters don’t trust the state legislature and I don’t blame them because they’ve not behaved responsibly.”

Though he’s the only major party candidate, Jacobs said he doesn’t necessarily see that a massive boon to his campaign. 

Jacobs said he isn’t being financially supported by the party and still has to go out and do the work of campaigning to put himself out there.

Jacobs also said he sees it as a bonus that the issues he has given top billing in his campaign are those where he contrasts with the other two candidates. He is pro-life and takes issue with the push by progressives in the direction of drug decriminalization.

Jacobs also said he sees it as a bonus that the issues he has given top billing in his campaign are also issues where he contrasts with the other two candidates. 

“The other parts of their platform are basically the party of choice,” Jacobs said.

Auxier said, as a point of contrast, he sees himself as the pro-union candidate.

“In order to win here you have to be pro-union. So, Mike Bost was a pro-union Republican and he served here for twenty years. Terri Bryant, who has vacated the seat I’m running for, is a pro-union Republican,” Auxier said. “Paul Jacobs, he’s well known in the area, but he’s not pro-union and that’s gonna hurt him.”

Peak chose to highlight his advocacy for local control and personal autonomy on a variety of  issues.

“Just as Chicago shouldn’t dictate Mount Vernon’s gun laws, Mount Vernon should not dictate Chicago’s immigration or their sanctuary city status, that’s for the people of Chicago to decide,” Peak said.  

The early voting period for Illinois started Sept.  24, and will run through Nov. 2

For more details, visit elections.il.gov.

This story has been edited from the print version published Oct. 13 the include the word “I” that was deleted from a quote and to fix a mistranscription that confused the words “my boss” and “Mike Bost”

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Staff reporter Jason Flynn can be reached at jflynn@dailyegyptian.com.

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