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'We can't go down this road'

Candidate says he helps weaken power of Chicago machine

STERLING – State Rep. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, says he is a vote against the Chicago political machine.

Morthland, a candidate in the 71st House District, made his pitch for re-election in a Sauk Valley Media interview Wednesday.

SVM invited Morthland and his Democratic opponent, Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, to take part in a debate, but Smiddy declined. His spokesman, Benjamin Head, said he thinks SVM’s coverage had been biased against Smiddy.

Under redistricting, the 71st District will include much of Whiteside County.

Morthland, elected 2 years ago, said his opponent would vote to keep Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, as the House speaker. Republicans say Madigan is the poster boy for the state’s financial problems and the excesses of Chicago’s political machine.

Morthland said he won one of the six House seats that Republicans gained in 2010.

“He [Madigan] has been running the House with an iron fist,” he said, but the smaller majority has weakened the speaker.

“I am a person who is in the minority party. That weakens Chicago’s strength over Illinois. That is almost undeniable,” said Morthland, a faculty member at Black Hawk College. “It comes down to Chicago vs. the state of sanity. We can’t go down this road, letting that city drive us toward oblivion.”

Morthland signed a pledge with the Grover Norquist-led Americans for Tax Reform that he won’t increase taxes.

He said the pledge reflects the will of his constituents. Asked if he would vote for a 10-1 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases, he said no.

“Illinois doesn’t need to increase its taxes,” he said. “We should have a high sensitivity to the comparative disadvantage with taxes that we have with states across the country.”

He noted that companies such as Jimmy John’s are moving their headquarters out of the state because of the poor business climate, while Caterpillar was considering leaving.

The state has balanced its budget, Morthland said, but it now must deal with the pension crisis. Lawmakers must put everything on the table in that discussion, including turning pensions into 401(k)s, he said.

Morthland opposed a proposal to transfer the state’s pension costs to local school districts. It may make school districts more accountable with their expenditures, he said, but it would be tougher on poorer ones.

A relatively poor Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico district, for instance, would have a harder time dealing with the transfer than Erie, he said.

At the same time, he said he may support phasing in the transfer.

On other issues, Morthland:

• Opposes admission fees at state parks and museums. “User fees are one thing; admissions fees are another,” he said.

• Supports township government. He said he couldn’t see any savings if counties took over townships.

• Opposes the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. He said he has voted against any bill that enables the state’s role in carrying out Obamacare’s provisions.

• Opposes same-sex marriage.

• Is against abortion.

• Said House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, has a laissez-faire style of leadership. “There is much freedom,” but he said that frustrated him at times because the Republicans could get more stuff done if they united.

Watch online

Miss Wednesday's live interview with Rep. Rich Morthland, Republican candidate in the 71st House District? Click here to watch it in full.

Election info online

For Q&As with candidates, and bios and maps for all of the races in the Nov. 6 general election, click here.

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