The write-in candidacy of a Democrat in the 108th Illinois House District has some party members concerned.
Members of Democratic central committees from the rural counties in the district said they did not know of 42-year-old J. David Parker, of Centralia, until he announced his campaign in February. Parker filed in December to run as a write-in under the name Jason Douglas David Parker.
Matt Cain, the vice chairman of the Clinton County Democratic Central Committee, said there is some concern in the party about Parker’s run.
“First of all, we never heard of him until a few weeks ago,” Cain said. “No one knows who he is, or what he stands for."
If no one runs successfully as a write-in, the party leaders would have the option of slating a candidate.
“I would like to think we would have had someone on the ballot,” Cain said.
In order for Parker to win the Democratic Party nomination and make it to the Nov. 6 General Election, he needs to get at least 500 write-in votes in the March 20 primary. He needs to get that many votes even though there are no other candidates in the Democratic Party primary in that district.
If Parker wins the nomination, he would face the winner of the Republican primary, which features incumbent state Rep. Charlie Meier, of Okawvill,e and Madison County Board member Don Moore, of Troy.
Among the concerns political insiders point to is how Parker only registered to vote last year, when he changed his name after he got married. He ended up taking his wife’s last name.
Parker has lived in the Midwest for about 20 years. He lived in St. Louis County before moving to Centralia, when he married his current wife, 52-year-old Juanita Parker, in 2017. He took his wife’s last name and they have four children between them, ranging in age from 14 to 33.
“We’re sort of nontraditional in a sense,” Parker said. “She’s been married before and she didn’t want to change her name again. We decided to have the same last name, and it would be hers."
Parker said when his own parents divorced, he ended up with his mother’s maiden name of “Exkorn.”
He said there is no attempt to cover up anything by changing his last name to Parker.
“I wanted to be married to someone who also had children and who also had been through divorce,” he said. “We connected that way.”
Parker said he was previously registered as a Republican, however he disagrees with many stances of President Donald Trump, which led him to defect to the Democratic Party. He said he’s a fiscal conservative, but he’s in “agreement with the Democratic message much more so than with the Republican message, whatever it seems to be in this given moment.”
According to online court records, Parker's wife in December sought an emergency order of protection against Parker, but a judge denied the request.
Parker said the request for a protective order stemmed from a heated argument with his wife.
“It was just a bad argument and we overcame it. (There was) absolutely no violence or threat of violence,” Parker said.
There also have been concerns raised about a small-claims judgment against him in Clinton County, but he said that deals with a maxed-out credit card and he is making monthly payments to resolve it.
Parker said he receives Social Security disability payments as he can no longer lift his arms above his head. When he was working as a convenience store clerk in New Jersey in 1999, while on college break, the store was robbed and he was beaten to a point that he needed surgery. He continue to work in various jobs, however, until 2009.
He said if he is elected as state representative, he would stop taking the disability payments.
Dan Polites, a Democrat who ran for the 108th House district in the 2012 general election, has endorsed Parker in his campaign. Polites said he has not yet met Parker in person, but has spoken to the candidate on the phone “a couple dozen times.”
Polites said Parker is passionate about making the run in a district that is difficult for Democrats because it is heavily Republican. Polites lost by a 2 to 1 margin.
“He seems like a nice guy and his heart is in the right place,” Polites said.
According to Matt Dietrich, a spokesman for the State Board of Elections, voters would not need to write in Parker’s name exactly the same as he wrote on his declaration of a write-in candidacy. As long as the election judge can get a sense that the voter intended to cast a ballot for Parker, the vote would count, Dietrich said.
For example, if a voter wrote “Parker” it would be count.
The 108th District runs from Hamel to Nashville and from Troy to Centralia and includes parts of Madison St. Clair, Washington and Clinton counties.
The last time a Democrat ran in the primary election in the 108th District was in 2008, when about 9,000 people voted for Jason Warfel.