Former legislator wants to go back to Springfield. His own party wants someone else.

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Former Republican state Rep. Dwight Kay wants his old seat back in the 112th District, which he lost in 2016. However, the state Republican Party wants to move on.

The Illinois House Republican Organization has recruited Wendy Erhart, of Maryville, to run against state Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville.

“Dwight is a friend. We’ve supported him in the past, but the fact is on Nov. 8, 2016 … he fell short where we picked up five other seats, so we’re going to go in a new direction for the 112th and we feel the voters have spoken,” said Joe Woodward, political director for the House Republican Organization.

Kay, who served three terms after defeating Democratic incumbent Jay Hoffman in 2011, said he doesn’t care whether he has the backing of the Republican Party or financial support from Gov. Bruce Rauner.

“The Illinois Republican Party is not funding me and the governor is not funding me,” said Kay, of Glen Carbon. “If money dictates who we send to the capital, maybe I lose. … The fact that they’re not outwardly supporting me in a primary doesn’t concern me.”

Dwight is a friend. We’ve supported him in the past, but the fact is in Nov. 8, 2016 was the best night for the House under this map, and he fell short where we picked up five other seats, so we’re going to go in a new direction for the 112th and we feel the voters have spoken.

Joe Woodward, political director for the Illinois House Republican Organization

The 112th district includes Edwardsville, Glen Carbon, Maryville, Collinsville and runs west toward Granite City.

If Erhart and Kay each collect enough signatures to end up on the ballot, there would be a contested primary, which Woodward said would be healthy.

“Voters come first, and organizations come second,” Woodward said. “But we feel, and my job as a caucus person is, to protect our incumbents and add seats, and Wendy is in the column of adding seats.”

The Illinois Republican Party is not funding me and the governor is not funding me. If money dictates who we send to the capital, maybe I lose. … The fact that they’re not outwardly supporting me in a primary doesn’t concern me.

Former state Rep. Dwight Kay

The winner of a primary would go on to challenge Stuart in the November general election. She could not be reached for comment.

Erhart, who has never run for public office before, said she will be ready for a primary.

“I really respect Dwight’s years of service in the legislature, (but) I think it’s important we get new voices in Springfield,” Erhart said. “We’ve got to look forward, not backward. If we’re going to get Mike Madigan out as speaker of the House, we have to defeat Katie Stuart. Unfortunately Dwight has shown a unique ability to not be able to do that.”

Erhart is a strategic initiatives manager with community development lender Justine Petersen. She has previously worked for banks.

Erhart and Kay did speak together before she made her formal announcement of her run. Kay said Erhart was polite and said the conversation was meant to persuade him not to run.

“We’re going to let the constituents of this district decide, because I already have a number of petition signatures and I spent my summer walking door to door,” Kay said.

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