Parkhurst wins re-election battle

November 7, 2018

Republican state Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst on Tuesday prevailed in her re-election, fighting off a challenge from Democrat Lisa Dugan, who held the seat for a decade.

Parkhurst received 56.2 percent of the vote to Dugan’s 43.8 percent in the 79th District state representative race. Parkhurst won by big margins in all three counties in her district, Kankakee, Will and Grundy.

In an interview at her election party, Parkhurst said she had been “cautiously optimistic” she would win. She said although it might have been a Democratic year in many places, the state representative race focused on local issues.

“I stayed true to myself. I did what I said I’d do,” she said at her celebration at No Dogs Sports Bar in downtown Kankakee.

Parkhurst said Dugan called her to concede and was “very gracious.”

Parkhurst called governor-elect J.B. Pritzker, a multibillionaire businessman, “an unknown,” saying how she will work with him “remains to be seen.”

“No one has told him no in his life,” Parkhurst said.

At her campaign headquarters, Dugan said she always knew it would be an uphill battle.

“I’m excited. One of my goals was to get J.B. Pritzker elected, so we worked with him,” Dugan said. “I will continue to work for this district like I’ve done since I’ve been out of office. Illinois is in good hands.”

A local attorney, Parkhurst won in the 2016 election, defeating then-state Rep. Kate Cloonen, who served two terms.

Dugan served in the state House from 2003 to 2013, leaving after having decided against running for another term. Last November, the longtime union electrician announced her return to politics.

Dugan and Parkhurst raised a combined $1.5 million in their campaigns, mainly from their party organizations. Dugan’s campaign received $845,000, and Parkhurst got $687,000, according to state election board records.

Much of that money was invested in largely deceptive mailers, which came from their parties. Parkhurst distanced herself from the GOP’s literature, while Dugan said she approved every flyer.

The Republicans accused Dugan of taking $700,000 from a group that also gave to a lawmaker found guilty of child pornography — a similar accusation used against other Democrats. The group involved was the Democrats, which stopped its donations to the politician after his crimes became known.

Dugan, a Bradley resident, gave as good as she got. Repeated Democratic mailers claimed, “As a lawyer, Lindsay Parkhurst kept a person charged with child pornography out of jail.”

As a defense attorney, Parkhurst, a Kankakee resident, represented a client charged with child pornography and as such, she was ethically bound to get the best possible deal for her client. In response, Parkhurst accused Dugan of disrespecting the Constitution by ignoring the principle that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Throughout the campaign, Republican mailers depicted Dugan as a puppet of House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, noting she voted for him as speaker four times. Much of Dugan’s campaign money came from the Madigan-led state Democratic Party.

Dugan contended she would be independent from Madigan and any other leader in Springfield.

Asked about taxes, Dugan declined to say what her position was on the proposed progressive income tax constitutional amendment. But she said the states needed a “fair” tax system that would not let the wealthy and corporations get away with paying minimal or no income taxes.

Dugan criticized Parkhurst for siding with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner during a nearly two-year budget stalemate.

Parkhurst said she wanted a balanced budget that restrained spending and taxes. But, like Rauner, she failed to give many details on spending cuts.

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