McConoughey campaigns to replace LaHood


by Norm Winick

The Zephyr, Galesburg


In what promises to be a hotly contested race, the open seat for Congress in Illinois’ 18th District, which includes the eastern half of Knox County, is attracting a good number of candidates. With Ray LaHood in office, the district was considered safely Republican. With his retirement, at least two Democrats and three Republicans will be seeking their party’s nod. Democrat Dick Versace, former NBA and Bradley Basketball coach is the best-known of the five. Chuck Giger, a decorated veteran and college professor from near Springfield, is also running as a Democrat. Neither have any political experience.

Of the three Republicans, conservative Peoria State Representative Aaron Schock is a dynamic campaigner and has been a successful vote-getter. John Morris is a former Peoria City Council member and Jim McConoughey of Dunlap is president and CEO of the Heartland Partnership. McConoughey was in Galesburg Thursday as he kicked off his campaign.

“Aaron has done a good job of creating the notion that he has an insurmountable lead. That’s just not the case. Outside of Peoria, he’s not that well-known.”

As McConoughey tours the 20-county district, “The primary thing that I see in the marketplace, in general, is that it’s a very unpopular war. We must keep our troops safe and get them home as soon as possible.”

He says he is still developing his policies. “There is no A-B switch. My goal is to create an understanding of the needs and issues of the people in the district. Folks are terribly disenfranchised from their government at both the state and federal level. I have experience bringing people together in a collaborative environment — independent of the leadership.”

“I think they want a Congressman with a high level of leadership skills and who has done something. I’m a guy who deals in politics and a guy who deals in economic development.”

McConoughey says he is a mainstream, pro-second amendment and pro-life Republican, born and raised on a farm. He says he takes a “fairly reasonable” approach. “I’m big on economic and national security. I’m big on renewable energy — especially biodiesel. I am interested in discovering the most efficient system for an energy policy.” He’s clearly positioning himself as a businessman who’s more moderate than either of his opponents.

McConoughey predicts it will take at least $825,000 and a lot of work to win the primary over Schock and Morris. “I work really hard. It’s an extraordinary opportunity with an open seat.”