After 20 years as a State Senator, Republican David Luechtefeld is retiring.
On March 15th, voters in 58th District will get the chance to vote for a new State Senator.
Two Republicans are seeking their party's nomination.
Now that the seat is open, two Republican candidates are seeking nomination to run against Democrat Sheila Simon on November 8th.
Paul Schimpf from Waterloo and Sharee Langenstein from Murphysboro are each vying for a spot on the General Election ballot.
Both are graduates of the SIU School of Law - they graduated 2 years apart.
They have about the same amount of experience as lawyers, but not in the same specializations.
Both the candidates agree Springfield needs better leadership, and want to do their part to help.
Schimpf: “I think Springfield needs a common sense leadership we can trust, and with my background in the Marine Corps, the leadership positions I held, you're not going to find another candidate that actually has the resume and the leadership experience that I have.”
Langenstein: "I was asked to run because we need people in Springfield who are not beholden to the power brokers of Cook County. We need people who will actually represent the people of Southern Illinois.”
Schimpf spent about 13 years as a military attorney and was also an advisor to Iraqi prosecutors during the trial of Saddam Hussein. He retired from military practice in 2013 and now is at a law firm in Columbia.
Schimpf: "I grew up in Waterloo. I left in 1989 to go to the U.S. Naval Academy, and I spent my adult life in the US military. I was in the Marine Corp for 20 years. I got out as a Lieutenant Colonel, and I think everybody knows if you're going to be successful in the military, you're going to have to be able to work from people from across the political and social spectrum. You don’t have the option to say, 'You know what? I don’t like these people so I quit,' so I was successful in the military."
Langenstein has practiced as a criminal and appellate prosecutor, also an Assistant State's Attorney before opening her own practice as a constitutional lawyer.
Langenstein: “I do a lot of constitutional law, but I do primarily 2nd amendment law in my law practice. Because of my expertise in firearm law, I had an opportunity to do some lobbying in Springfield for the Illinois State Rifle Association, and when I went up there and saw the backroom deals and the crony politics - I was quite frankly disgusted and I decided that I wanted to change that.”
They also see eye to eye on the states financial issues and how that relates to jobs in this area.
Langenstein believes that new jobs will be key to improving the state.
Langenstein: “If we have more people coming into Illinois as opposed to people leaving, then we’ll be able to grow that tax base and it will be enable us to- it will put us in a position to balance the budget we need to make sure that we protect the vital state services that we need, like the university and some of the most essential human resources, and state pensions, existing state pensions, but yet do what we can in other ways to shrink government to encourage growth of the private sector in order to bring 21st century jobs to our region.”
Shimpf says that the state needs to get a budget and get the finances in order first, and then we can attract business.
Schimpf: “A lot of time people say that you the salvation lies in Springfield, I don’t believe that. I think the salvation of southern Illinois lies with our job creators right now, so we need a budget on a state level 'cause that’s going to be required for new businesses to come back to Illinois, for the businesses that are already here to stop leaving and then we need to make the state more competitive. I agree that we need to make some changes to workers compensation so that businesses want to come to Illinois, instead of go to other states.”
The 58th district is a diverse area that looks kind of like the state of Florida on a map. It starts in the Metro East on the bottom of St. Clair County and heads east to include all of Jefferson County, and goes all the way down to take the eastern half of Union County.
Altogether it reaches eight counties.
Schimpf: “I think that the 58th Senate district is probably the most diverse district in all of Illinois. We have some academic at the university here that are fairly progressive, we have some very conservative farmers in the district, we have the coal industry as a big part of our economic drivers, we also have the Department of Corrections. So there are a lot of different stake holders in getting our economy going. I think what you have to do is you just have to look at each situation, you have to make choices you have to vote our values, but you have to do what’s right on an individual case by case basis.”
Langenstein: “Southern Illinois needs someone who will represent all of them - not just the Metro East and not just the more rural areas. I have a significant background with dealing with more metropolitan areas as well as the more rural areas. In my law practice I have represented people from all walks of life, I have donated hundreds of hours to people in need both from the Metro East area, and from the more rural part of our district. I believe that I understand the needs of all of the voters in southern Illinois.”
Langenstein and Schimpf are not fans of the way the State Income Tax increase was handled in the past.
Langenstein: “I’m against restoring the state income tax that was the Quinn income tax, primarily because it hurt more families than it helped. However I’m not 100% taxes - I’m not going to say that were not going increase taxes at all but we have to make sure that we do that in the right way. “
Schimpf: “We cannot tax our way out of this problem that we’re in, we can’t cut our way out. The only way that we are going to turn our state around is if we actually get Illinois’ economy going again, so if there are structural reforms, I’m willing to consider revenue increases it just depends on what reforms we can have because if we just raise taxes without anything else I’m opposed that, that’s been tried already and that was an abject failure.
The Primary election is on March 15th.