Ryan Stookey says he wants to unseat state Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson because he believes the incumbent hasn't really accomplished anything for the two years he has been in office.
Stookey, a Belleville Republican, and Jackson, an East St. Louis Democrat, are running for state representative in the 114th Illinois House District. The district covers the East St. Louis area and wraps around Belleville, stretching to areas such as Millstadt, Freeburg, Mascoutah, Lebanon and O'Fallon.
Jackson could not be reached for comment for this article.
Stookey said he was driven to run for the seat because Jackson "hasn't done anything to benefit the citizens of the district as far as legislation goes."
The challenger said Jackson sponsored one chief piece of legislation, to permit active-duty military personnel to have 120 days to update their driver's license when they return to Illinois as opposed to the 90 days.
"After that, he has sponsored 90 honorariums for people who retired from the school district or someone who lived to be 100 years old," Stookey said. "I feel the district is too important for me to sit on the sidelines."
Stookey said Jackson either "has no ideas or he's been told not to do anything."
Important issues, Stookey said, include the state's pension crisis, its budget, the recent increase of the state income tax, and the state's Medicaid program. Jackson last year voted in favor of the 67 percent increase in the state income tax, which costs Illinois workers the equivalent of one week of pay.
Stookey said he'll work to peel back the tax increase, call for a forensic audit of the state's books and make sure the state sticks to its budget.
"It's no benefit to the taxpayer to pay more. We need to reign in our spending. We need to have a budget and stick by it," Stookey said.
He added that compounded cost-of-living increases should be removed from state pensions and replaced with a simple-interest-style system.
Stookey is an insurance consultant and holds a bachelor's degree in finance from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
He said he also plans to look at the Medicaid program to see if everybody who is using it is eligible for the benefit. He believes that some who are using Medicaid no longer live in the state, and some no longer meet the income requirements.
"Medicaid legislation has already been passed. It just needs to be enforced, and that's what I will do," Stookey said.
Stookey said he wants to see Illinoisans succeed.
"That's why I have rescheduled my business. For the past year, I have put my own family's personal success as a small business owner on the back-burner to meet with the voters on a daily basis to introduce myself to them and talk to them about my view on how the state needs to move forward. My opponent is standing on the sidelines," Stookey said.
Jackson is a former school principal and has been a state representative since he was appointed to the position in 2009.
In addition to voting for the tax increase, Jackson earlier this year said he wouldn't rule out voting to extend it.
"It is important to wait to see the impact of other efficiency measures we've enacted," he said in response to a question about the tax in a candidate questionnaire. "I think when we make proclamations about what we are willing, or not willing to do so far in the future, we tie our own hands and rob our constituents of true public service."
Jackson made headlines in March when it was reported that he earned an extra $10,326 above his regular House salary of nearly $68,000 by serving as chairman of the House's Military Affairs Committee -- which met only three times in 2011. Legislators receive the extra pay for serving as chairman of a committee. The committee's three meetings in 2011 lasted for a total of 19 minutes and 35 seconds.
Jackson generally casts votes that lean liberal and pro-union. He has a 100 percent rating from the Illinois AFL-CIO and a 42 percent rating from the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
He voted recently to increase taxes or fees on cigarettes and driver's licenses. He also voted in favor of civil unions and in favor of a so-called DREAM fund to pay for college education of the children of illegal immigrants. He voted in favor of abolishing the death penalty and against abolishing the legislative scholarship program, which was the subject of frequent reports of abuse by lawmakers who gave scholarships to the children of political allies.
He voted in favor of regulating martial arts events, in favor of prohibiting restaurants from serving food that contains artificial trans fats and in favor of a resolution honoring Occupy Wall Street.
Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.