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‘Very active’ race expected

April 24, 2018

The two local candidates for state representative have been largely quiet since the primary election last month.

But that probably won’t last.

In November, Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, R-Kankakee, will face former Rep. Lisa Dugan, D-Bradley, in the Illinois House 79th District, which is seen as a battleground.

In the 2016 election, Parkhurst defeated two-term incumbent Kate Cloonen, D-Kankakee. The candidates received a combined $4.5 million in the race — $3.2 million for Cloonen and $1.3 million for Parkhurst. Most of the money came from their political parties and out-of-district special interests.

Earlier this month, candidates’ quarterly reports were due. Parkhurst raised $17,500 from January through March, and Democratic candidate Dugan pulled in $20,200.

Many races across the state attract little attention because incumbents have virtual locks on re-election. But Republicans appear to take Dugan’s challenge seriously.

When she announced her candidacy in November, the state Republican Party released a statement beforehand. It contended she was tied to controversial House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago — a familiar GOP attack line also used against Cloonen.

Dugan, who left the House in 2013, said in response that Madigan didn’t intimidate her.

Neither Dugan nor Parkhurst returned messages for comment.

In an interview, Cloonen said she expected a “very active” campaign in the 79th District, which she said would involve plenty of mailers and TV ads on both sides.

“We’re going to see a tremendous amount of campaign material,” she said.

Since Dugan last ran for re-election, the boundaries of the 79th District have changed to make it more Republican, Cloonen said.

While Cloonen acknowledged a “blue wave” could help Dugan in November, she warned against discounting Republican enthusiasm.

“There are a lot of people who supported President Trump and Gov. Rauner,” Cloonen said. “They will be excited to get out and vote as well.”

At the same time, she said she expected young voters to turn out in greater numbers.

“It will be interesting to see how it turns out in November. Hopefully, people will feel a state of urgency,” she said.

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