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Dem says he has shot in GOP district

Ottawa man announces campaign

Randall Olsen
Randall Olsen

The 16th Congressional District, which includes Lee County, was made for a Republican.

In 2011, Democratic state lawmakers tried to pack as many GOP voters as possible into the 16th District so that other nearby districts would go Democratic in the 2012 election.

The strategy largely worked. For instance, Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, lost to Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, in the neighboring 17th Congressional District, which includes Whiteside County.

In the 16th District, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, pummeled his Democratic opponent, Wanda Rohl, a late entrant, with 62 percent of the vote.

Those facts aren't deterring Democrat Randall Olsen from entering the 2014 race for the Democratic nomination in the 16th. The Ottawa resident retired this month as a cardiology technician at SwedishAmerican Hospital in Rockford.

"There is a part of me who believes a Democrat can win," the 64-year-old said in an interview. "I'm getting the drift from people in the district that there are a lot of bad feelings against the Republicans in general. In my campaign, I have to get Democrats and some of the Republicans."

In 2012, Kinzinger pulled in more than $2 million for his campaign, far more than Rohl's $36,000. The Democratic Party put its money in more competitive races.

These days, one of the biggest issues is the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

"I'm definitely for it," Olsen said. "There are things that need to be adjusted a bit. But when Medicare came through, they had to tweak that."

As for the federal budget deficit, Olsen said he backs increasing the payroll cap on taxes for Social Security and Medicare. As it is, income more than $113,700 is not subject to the tax.

"That will take care of Medicare and Social Security, put more money in the system," he said.

He noted the deficit is already on the decline.

"There needs to be some spending cuts, but they should be balanced with tax increases on higher-income people," Olsen said.

As for immigration, Olsen favors the Senate-passed bill, which gives those who illegally crossed the border a pathway to citizenship and calls for more border security. The GOP-controlled House has not taken up the legislation.

"The way the Republican Party has stonewalled on everything, I think it's horrible."

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