By KERRY LESTER, Associated Press
SPRINGFIELD — The son of former federal cabinet member and longtime congressman Ray LaHood remains the overwhelming favorite to replace disgraced ex-U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, as the deadline approached on Monday for candidates to declare for a special election in a heavily Republican central Illinois district.
Darin LaHood, 46, is a former state and federal prosecutor known in Illinois for his fiscally conservative views and focus on ethics reform. Ideologically, he’s considered more conservative than his father, who held the seat before Schock and was transportation secretary for Democratic President Barack Obama.
Neither LaHood nor his campaign spokeswoman, Kayleen Carlson, both who were traveling to Washington Monday morning, immediately returned requests for comment. The deadline to file nominating papers for the July 7 primary is 5 p.m. Monday. As of early afternoon, Republican Donald Reints of Benson was the only other Republican who filed paperwork to challenge Darin LaHood in the primary, while Rob Mellon of Quincy filed to run as a Democrat.
Schock, a Peoria Republican elected to his fourth congressional term in November, resigned March 31 after withering criticism of remodeling his congressional office in the style of the “Downton Abbey” television show and other lavish spending. The Justice Department is investigating the Peoria Republican and a grand jury has begun hearing testimony about the matter.
The district Schock represented has been held by a Republican since 1939, and has only grown more Republican since the once-a-decade redistricting process in 2010 took out a heavily black, Democratic-leaning portion of the district, making it more uniformly conservative.
A handful of other Republican lawmakers — state Sen. Jason Barickman and Bill Brady, and state Rep. Dan Brady — who were considering bids, quickly removed their names from the running as LaHood locked up support both locally and from GOP governor Bruce Rauner’s political operation. State Central Committeeman Mike Bigger said 18 of 19 county GOP chairmen within the district back LaHood. The state’s entire Republican congressional delegation is hosting a fundraiser for LaHood Tuesday evening at Washington’s Capitol Hill Club, with tickets ranging from $500 to $1,000 apiece.
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