LaHood is all aboard on Amtrak issue

Erika Ward

 There won’t be anymore “Schocking” name puns if Republican State Senator Darin LaHood is elected to the U.S. Congress to succeed Aaron Schock in a special election to represent the 18th Congressional District.

 Republican Schock, former U.S. Congressman, announced his resignation earlier in March after questions arose about his mileage reimbursements.  He remained in Congress until March 31.

 On March 30 and 31, LaHood toured the 18th Congressional District, which covers 19 counties, stopping in Peoria, Bloomington, Springfield, Jacksonville, Quincy and finally Macomb to formally announce his candidacy for U.S. Congress.

 “(I’m) very proud to be here today to announce my candidacy for Congress,” LaHood said.  “Let me just tell you, I take this job and this race very, very seriously.”

 LaHood addressed one of the biggest issues affecting Western Illinois University students: Amtrak.

 Amtrak recently considered adding a route to connect Macomb to other college towns.  However, Governor Bruce Rauner released in his budget that he planned on cutting Amtrak funding by $16 million, making the budget for the trains $26 million rather than $42 million.

 “Obviously Amtrak is very important to this area,” LaHood said.  “It’s a very popular line, and it, obviously, helps the economy, helps our students at Western and it provides transportation that is critically needed in this area.”

 LaHood promised that, if elected, he would be a strong defender of Amtrak and infrastructure in the area as well as trying to get the governor to reinstate money to the Amtrak budget.

 “In my district, the Amtrak is important, and I’m going to continue to be a strong advocate,” LaHood said.  “Talking to the governor, talking to his budget people about that, talking about priority for west-central Illinois, I have already done that and will continue to do that.”

 LaHood is also a part of a committee that meets quarterly to discuss issues involving travel and tourism throughout the area. 

 “In those meetings, talking about how we improve the tourism aspect from Chicago to Quincy and all the spots in between, Macomb, Kewanee, Galesburg,” LaHood said.  “We’re looking at ridership and how we, at the federal level, make sure we have the adequate resources to promote Amtrak, to promote tourism and to get people to ride Amtrak more and more.”

 LaHood went on to appeal to the citizens of Macomb.

“I’ve got a strong conservative record when it comes to fiscal responsibility, when it comes to being an advocate for our agriculture community in central and west-central Illinois, and also my stance on ethics bills,” LaHood said. “I’ve been a strong proponent of term limits for legislators, strong proponent of ethics reform and transparency in government over the last five years, and I think that’s important in our state government.”

LaHood also addressed the influence his family has on his political outlook.

“When I think about this race and think about our country, I think about the future for (my family) and think about our grand kids and our kids,” LaHood said.  “I was fortunate enough to have great opportunities in my life, and as I look at the next generation and what the future holds, it worries me with what’s going on in our country, what’s going on overseas and what’s going on internationally.  What I hope to focus (on) in this race is looking at the future.”

LaHood is also proud of his accomplishments as an advocate for agriculture and in support of the Second Amendment and believes  this is important for the 18th Congressional District.

“I’ve been a strong proponent of agriculture in the State Senate,” LaHood said.  “I’m very proud (that) I’ve gotten the Farm Bureau Award my last two elections.  I’m also proud (that) I’ve been endorsed by the NRA (National Rifle Association) in my last two elections and I will continue to be a strong advocate for agriculture if I’m elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Governor Rauner will be setting an official date for the election within the next few days, although it is predicted to take place in June.  The winning candidate will finish out Schock’s term.

LaHood drew his announcement to a close by encouraging potential voters.

“I’ll just say, I’m proud to have the endorsements I have here today, but the real endorsement is the voters, “ LaHood said.  “I promise to work very, very hard over these next 10 weeks to earn your vote, not take anything for granted, talk about my record and come back more and more to Macomb and McDonough County.”

LaHood ended his speech on a positive note.

“I’m looking forward, most importantly, to work hard for the future (and) the next generation of this country,” LaHood said.