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GOP candidate withdraws, backs rival in 71st District

McKinley cites family concerns in leaving state House race

ROCK ISLAND – The race for the Republican nomination for 71st District state representative is no longer a race.

Jeff McKinley has withdrawn as a candidate in the March 18 Republican primary, which leaves only Jim Wozniak. Both men are prosecutors for the Rock Island County state’s attorney.

They were vying to face state Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, in the November general election. The 71st District includes Whiteside County.

Upon leaving the race, McKinley endorsed Wozniak.

McKinley revealed his decision in a speech Thursday to the Rock Island County Republican Party. He cited unspecified family concerns as the reason for withdrawing.

“I assembled a great team, and we had the pieces in place to achieve victory, not only in the primary, but also in the general election in November,” McKinley told the Republicans, according to a copy of the speech distributed by his campaign.

He said he was confident that his former rival would successfully put “our shared ideas of liberty and limited government” into action. He promised to join Wozniak on the campaign trail.

“Mike Smiddy should consider himself on notice: His time as a cog in the Pat Quinn-Mike Madigan machine is up,” Wozniak said.

In a news release, Wozniak called McKinley a friend and a good attorney, father and Republican. He thanked his colleague for running a “spirited and positive” campaign. 

Wozniak had gained momentum in recent weeks, including the endorsements of all five Republican members of the Rock Island County Board.

According to a report filed with the state, Wozniak raised more money than McKinley in the last quarter – $7,316 to $1,996.

The 71st District contest is among a handful of competitive races in Illinois.

Wozniak likely faces an uphill battle. In 2012, Smiddy beat Rep. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, in a district whose lines had just been redrawn to benefit Democrats. In that race, Smiddy raised $461,609 – nearly all from unions – far ahead of Morthland’s $192,372.

The unions seem ready to step up again. Smiddy recently got a $20,000 contribution from the Illinois Federation of Teachers. 

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