A state senator from Peoria, Ill., has become the first Democrat to jump into the race for Congress in Illinois’ 17th District.
Sen. Dave Koehler said Friday his campaign will announce today that he’s seeking to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill.
Koehler, who has been a state senator since 2006, said fairness and commonsense will be the foundations of his campaign. He criticized Republican budget proposals in Congress, saying they would cut back Medicare while continuing to provide tax breaks for corporations.
“That is not fair. It doesn’t make sense,” he said.
Koehler spent 21 years as executive director of the Peoria Area Labor Management Council. A former member of the Peoria City Council and the county board, he also co-owns a bread company.
With former Rep. Phil Hare of Rock Island saying Thursday he will not run again, that opens the door to what could be a crowded Democratic field.
Former Rock Island Mayor Mark Schwiebert, former state Rep. Mike Boland and East Moline Alderwoman Cheri Bustos all have said they’re considering candidacies. Also, Porter McNeil, who used to be the spokesman for former state comptroller Dan Hynes, said Friday he’s considering it, too.
The new 17th includes the Quad-Cities as well as parts of Peoria and Rockford. The district, which pushes up to Illinois’ northern border, is friendlier to Democrats than the current
district, and with Hare stepping aside, there may well be others considering the race.
While from Peoria, Koehler said the issues he talks about will resonate in the Quad-Cities, too. He also praised the Rock Island Arsenal and said he backs funding for an Amtrak link between the Quad-Cities and Chicago.
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“That’s terribly exciting, and it’s a big job creator,” he said.
Koehler said he values forging personal relationships in politics and wants to work across the aisle.
Asked about the state’s troubled fiscal condition, Koehler said the legislature passed a budget that would spend $2 billion less than Gov. Pat Quinn requested, which he said was difficult. He also said the tax increase on individuals and businesses, approved in a lame-duck session, “put some stability into the budget.” He stressed it is temporary.
Koehler, who is 62, is married and has three daughters, a son-in-law and two granddaughters.