State House: Incumbent faces 2 challengers in 52nd
BY THE SUN-TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD February 27, 2012 8:00PM
Illinois State Representative 52nd District Kent Gaffney of Lake Barrington.
Updated: March 29, 2012 8:00AM
The three-way Republican race in Illinois’ 52nd House District is shaping up to be one of the most expensive — not to mention contentious — contests for the Illinois State Legislature.
The redrawn 52nd, in Chicago’s far northwest suburbs, includes Republican-leaning Barrington Hills, Lake Barrington, Island Lake, Fox River Grove and Algonquin.
Incumbent Kent Gaffney has the support of state GOP leaders, including House Republican leader Tom Cross. First-time candidate Danielle Rowe has the backing of the Illinois Tea Party and conservative activist Dan Proft. And challenger David McSweeney has something that may prove even more important: Giant piles of money, combined with a willingness to make noise.
In December, McSweeney filed objections to Rowe’s and Gaffney’s candidacies with the Illinois State Board of Elections, claiming their nominating petitions included fraudulent signatures.
The objections were overruled, but Gaffney responded with an open letter demanding that McSweeney apologize and withdraw from the race. McSweeney quickly countered with his own demand for an apology.
Whose tactics will prevail? A recent poll conducted by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association suggests that cash may indeed be king. Gaffney captured 9 percent of the vote, Rowe took 4 percent and McSweeney snagged a whopping 30 percent. But plenty of time remains before the primary, and 56 percent of likely voters said they were “uncertain” about which candidate they would vote for. McSweeney may be gearing up to persuade them: He recently deposited an additional $50,000 into his campaign fund.
Gaffney, the former Illinois House Republican budget director, has not held office for long. The Barrington resident was appointed in July 2011 after the death of Rep. Mark Beaubien Jr. During that time, he has held multiple town hall meetings across the district and co-sponsored a number of bills. He sits on the House Revenue and Finance Committee.
In January, citing the state’s budget crisis and the lack of funding for the program, Gaffney announced he would not award any of the eight one-year college scholarships that have traditionally been available to students in his district. According to Gaffney, he was one of two state legislators to turn down the annual scholarship opportunity. He’s a graduate of Purdue University who pursued graduate work at the University of Illinois and is a member of the local Chambers of Commerce and the National Rifle Association.
David McSweeney is a self-employed financial consultant who lives in Barrington Hills. He’s a Palatine Township trustee and has worked for Chase Manhattan and Bank of America. He’s a graduate of Duke University and Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. He lost his 2006 bid for Congress against 8th District incumbent Democrat Melissa Bean, despite endorsements from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Sen. John McCain. McCain will headline a fund-raising lunch for McSweeney on March 12.
Danielle Rowe, who lives in Island Lake, is the marketing director for a small company. She is a member of Operation Homefront Illinois, the Lake County Young Republican Club and the Liberty Street Tea Party.
A longtime presence in the Republican fund-raising community, Rowe, who has a high school diploma, has never run for office. Even so, Rowe’s presence is good news for Gaffney, said Tari Renner, a political science professor at Illinois Wesleyan University. “Three-way races always favor the incumbent,” Renner said. “Votes opposing Gaffney will be split two ways.”
All three candidates returned completed questionnaires, and their responses indicate significant similarities on the issues. They all oppose a constitutional shift from a flat income tax to a progressive income tax, gay marriage and the expansion of gambling in Illinois. They uniformly cite job creation and tax relief as top priorities. Rowe and Gaffney support reducing public employee benefits going forward — as does McSweeney, albeit with reservations. He prefers an alternative plan that would eliminate all pensions for legislators and making a 401(k)-style retirement option available to all public employees.
No Democrats are running for this state House seat.