Koehler, Anderson contest 46th Illinois Senate District race – The Pantagraph






BLOOMINGTON — Following uncontested victories in both party primaries, the race for 46th Illinois Senate District in the general election is looking to be closer than years prior.

Democratic incumbent state Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, has held the seat since 2006, while Republican candidate Desi Anderson is seeking office for the first time. Both ran unopposed in the June primary, with just over 11,000 votes each.

“I’ve enjoyed being in the Senate,” said Koehler, 73. “I enjoy doing constituent services, meeting people in communities (and) trying to help out; that’s my role, is that I’ve become the helper of the community. If people have issues with the state government, I help them get to the right place (or) help try to get somebody who will be able to answer their questions.”

The district, which was redrawn in 2021, now covers portions of Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford and McLean counties along Interstate 74. This a big change in a constituency that elected Koehler with almost 54% of the vote in 2020.

Anderson, 35, a former congressional intern for U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, owns The Hesed House Venue in Heyworth, together with her husband, Nick. They have a young son, which Anderson said made her motivation to run a family decision.

Anderson, who resides in Carlock, has focused her campaign on providing better services for families and issues related to tax increases, criminal justice reform and small businesses.

“I think people are feeling optimism and excitement for change, and this is what we need for the 46th District,” she said. “The question is, after 40 years of Peoria politics, is Peoria better off? Is Central Illinois better off? And a lot of families are asking themselves that question, and they’re saying no.”

Anderson said if elected, one of her first priorities would be work toward repealing the criminal justice reform legislation known as the SAFE-T Act. She noted that it has been the subject of recent lawsuits from state’s attorneys in the region, including those in Livingston and McLean counties.

“Let’s get every professional opinion from law enforcement all the way down to the state’s attorney level, and let’s have a say in it,” Anderson said. “I think that’s a huge concern; people are not understanding why the SAFE-T Act is going to take place.”

Koehler, who voted for the legislation, said its language to be clarified. Widespread misinterpretation surrounding the topic has caused people to worry more about crime in their communities, he said, when in reality the law would keep the worst offenders behind bars. 

“The federal court system doesn’t use cash bail in the same way, so we need to emulate what they do, and all we’re talking about is that somebody ought to be risk assessed as to whether they’re a threat or whether they might flee,” Koehler said. “We’re trying to do some reform in a responsible way and we do need to go back and make some corrections on that, but it’s a sound piece of legislation.” 

Koehler said Illinois’ economic circumstances have improved in the past four years under Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Democratic majority in leadership, highlighting the state’s total debt of $16 billion before Pritzker stepped into office compared to today, when bills are paid on time. 

“We gave $1.8 billion back to taxpayers in terms of refunds; we put aside $1 billion for a rainy day fund and we haven’t had that for a long time,” Koehler said. “We paid off all the (backlogged) health care bills; we put an extra $500 million into a pension payment over and above what our normal payment was; that’s going to save millions of dollars down the road.”

Anderson said higher taxes and crime have made the region and the state as a whole unfriendly for businesses to start and grow.

“Businesses are still trying to recover from COVID. How do we continue to provide support, and one way is by cutting the taxes, the red tape and encouraging entrepreneurship, but small (business) growth is not going to happen in a city that has high crime,” Anderson said. “People just want to invest, and really that’s the route we need to go on.”

The candidates also differ in their opinions about whether the Illinois Constitution should be amended to enshrine workers’ rights to unionize and collectively bargain. The measure, known as the “Workers’ Rights Amendment” by supporters and “Amendment 1” by opponents, is also on the November ballot.

Anderson said she comes from a pro-union background but does not support the amendment, which she believes would lead to higher taxes and give union leaders more power over state government. 

“We have a unique position. My husband was a laborer. My father-in-law was part of the union. We’re pro-union, and most people are shocked to hear that our family comes from a union background,” she said. “The reality is we don’t want to increase our taxes, and that’s what Amendment 1 really does at the end of the day, and that’s my view on it, but we will continue to advocate for what is right. I believe everyone’s got a voice at the table.”

Koehler said he is a strong supporter of the amendment and voted to have it put on the ballot as a constitutional question because it provides long-term protections for workers’ rights. 

“We are a strong union state, and the result of that is that we have a thriving economy, we have workers that make head-of-household incomes that they can feed their family and pay rent with, and we have a work-ready workforce,” Koehler said. “We have a good work ethic in Illinois and all that is worth protecting.”

Election Day is Nov. 8, and early voting is now open. McLean County residents outside of Bloomington can find more information about early voting at mcleancountyil.gov/1226/Elections.

For Bloomington residents, information can be found on the Bloomington Elections Commission website at bloomingtonelectionsil.gov.

Following uncontested victories in both party primaries, the race for 46th Illinois Senate District in the general election is looking to be closer than years prior.

Following uncontested victories in both party primaries, the race for 46th Illinois Senate District in the general election is looking to be closer than years prior.

Contact Mateusz Janik at (309) 820-3234. Follow Mateusz on Twitter:@mjanik99

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October 29, 2022 at 11:39AM

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