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Democrat becomes a Republican

Reyes says he’s always had conservative views

Eric Reyes
Eric Reyes

Rock Island attorney Eric Reyes says he has the support of his family and friends in his bid for Congress.

That wasn’t a certainty. Nearly all of them are Democrats, and he’s a Republican – now.

“People are sick of political parties,” Reyes said. “The parties allow everything to become political.”

Reyes has had quite a political evolution. In 2012, he filed to run as a Democrat to represent the 17th Congressional District, which includes Whiteside County.

But after he saw the political establishment rallying around former East Moline Alderwoman Cheri Bustos, he decided to run as an independent write-in candidate. He got only a small fraction of the vote in a race in which Bustos defeated incumbent Bobby Schilling, R-Colona.

Recently, Reyes, 34, whose father is a Mexican immigrant, announced that he would run again, this time as a Republican. He said his views have always been conservative, but he filed to run as a Democrat before because that’s where his support system was.

Growing up, he said, he kept his views quiet. He would speak up about politics when he agreed with his family.

But he admitted that he liked Ronald Reagan, which his family couldn’t understand.

Even as a candidate, Reyes said, he called for less government and lower taxes when his Democratic opponents did just the opposite.

Reyes likens himself to Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican senator and possible 2016 presidential candidate, who is considered a libertarian.

On gay marriage, Reyes favors allowing it, which he calls the truly conservative position. He considers the bans against such marriage a form of gender discrimination.

“Why do we need government involved in marriage?” he asked.

In an interview in Sterling, Reyes took digs at Bustos.

“She told everyone that jobs were her No. 1 priority, but she doesn’t produce a plan,” he said. “She votes against budgets, but she doesn’t produce one. She doesn’t want to be on record making cuts. If I didn’t like the budget proposals, I would present my own budget.”

Reyes also accused Bustos of trotting out her spokesman to deflect questions about her positions on issues, with the spokesman often saying that Bustos needs to see the language of a bill before commenting on it.

At the very least, Reyes said, Bustos could state her general principles.

In his day job, Reyes is a defense attorney, but he used to be a prosecutor. Sometimes, he said, prosecutors see their job as simply racking up prosecutions, but their ultimate duty is to do justice, which includes standing up for defendants’ constitutional rights.

Reyes remembers when he had a case dismissed because it resulted from what he saw as an illegal search.

“That made the officer angry,” he said.

He will run in the March 14 Republican primary, more than 8 months away. No one else has announced in the race, although Bustos can be expected to seek re-election.

In 2011, the Democratic-led state Legislature redrew congressional districts, which resulted in a 17th District friendlier to Democrats.

But Reyes believes he can bridge the gap with his positions on issues. Besides his support for gay marriage, he says he backs collective bargaining rights and comprehensive immigration reform. His positions, he said, can attract traditionally Democratic constituencies such as gays and Hispanics.

“It’ll be a long road,” he acknowledged, “but I believe libertarian Republicans have the ability to appeal in blue districts.”

More online

Go to or find him on Facebook to learn more about Republican Eric Reyes, candidate for the 17th Congressional District.

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