MORRIS – Current state Rep. John Anthony, R-Plainfield, and current Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson will face off for the Republican spot in the race for state representative of the 75th District.
The winner of the Republican primary will take on Democrat Martha Shugart in the Nov. 4. general election.
Anthony worked as a law enforcement officer from 2005 to 2013 – one year as an officer with Champaign police and another eight years as a Kendall County sheriff’s deputy.
He also worked as a case manager for more than three years at the Safer Foundation, a Chicago-based organization helping former inmates successfully reintegrate into society. Anthony and his wife currently run a community development foundation known as YARN based in Montgomery.
He was appointed to the state representative position in August when previous 75th district representative Pam Roth, R-Morris, stepped down.
Severson, of Morris, studied macroeconomics in college before starting a job as an investigator with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He left Chicago to join the army where he quickly rose to the rank of Sergeant and served overseas in the Vietnam War for one year.
When he returned home, Severson worked in the radio business for stations throughout the state and became a farm operator shortly thereafter.
In Kendall County, Severson served on the Sewer and Township boards, and for the last 12 years, he has served on the Grundy County Board. He is currently the county board chairman and has been since 2010.
Anthony said his combined experience in law enforcement and social work is why Roth suggested he apply to be her replacement.
“As a police officer, you have to be objective,” Anthony said. “That background of knowing how to deal with people and negotiating in crisis situations, that’s really helped me while I’m down in Springfield.”
Before being appointed representative roughly six months ago, Anthony had little direct experience with the legislative process, but he said his life-long passion for politics prepared him for his position in the General Assembly.
“I’ve always watched and studied [politics] since I was a kid,” Anthony said. “I’ve worked on a lot of different Republican campaigns...I’m also an elected precinct committeeman.”
He added that with his law enforcement background, he brings a “different perspective” to issues being debated in Springfield.
Severson said his years at the county board and economic background have prepared him to make the tough decisions needed to fix Illinois’ current fiscal situation.
“You can’t just say ‘I’m going to lower taxes,’ you need to tell me how that will happen,” Severson said. “That’s what you learn with experience on a board. You see that things aren’t black and white. There is no magic bullet. You have to make tough decisions.”
Unlike Anthony, Severson has no previous experience in the General Assembly, but he said serving in local government taught him a lot about the political process.
Since serving on the board, Severson has balanced the county’s budget.
“Experience isn’t everything but it is important,” he said.
If elected, Anthony said he would continue to fight tax increases and work for a change in leadership.
He is currently signed onto a house resolution stating he will stand against the progressive tax increase.
“They’ve shown us what they would do with that taxation power when they passed the temporary tax increase,” he said. “They said it was for paying bills and pensions, but all that money went to new programs.”
Since joining the General Assembly in August, Anthony has introduced 15 bills, many of which address government corruption and fraud by proposing more political accountability. He’s also introduced two bills dealing with education reform.
One bill, which has received co-sponsorship from other Republicans in the house, would lift the tattoo removal ban that prevents minors from getting tattoos removed without parental permission, but only for minors forced into sex trafficking. These victims are often “branded” by their sex traffickers with distinguishable tattoos.
Anthony said his years in law enforcement showed him how extensive the sex trafficking problem is in Illinois.
Anthony voted in favor of the controversial pension reform bill. He said he felt the bill was a good “first step,” to fixing the state’s current pension crisis.
“That was not a decision I took lightly,” he said. “It was the toughest vote I’ve made thus far.”
Purging state politics of excessive spending and getting money back to the taxpayers is something Severson said he would work toward if elected.
He said the state should consider cutting into government salaries, which he said are some of the highest in the country. He also proposed looking into the state’s welfare system to make sure those using the benefits “are actually eligible.”
Severson said he would also fight to keep “big money” out of the political process and suggested creating a conflict of interest clause that would not allow politicians to vote on legislation that affects any of their campaign donors.
Severson put that idea to the test earlier this year when he challenged Anthony to limit the amount of campaign spending to $10,000.
“I’m sick of big money influencing politics,” he said.
At the time of that challenge, Anthony said he had already raised more than $10,000. On Wednesday he said $10,000 was an unreasonable amount for a state rep campaign.
School funding is another issue Severson said he would make a priority.
“If the state provided more state funding, then the property taxes would go down,” he said. “The state needs to be putting more money into the schools.”
Although Severson did not vote on the pension reform bill passed earlier this year, he said he would have voted against it.
“When you make a deal, you have to stick to it,” he said. “If it’s a bad deal, too bad.”