The power struggle in Washington between conservative Republicans and more-conservative Republicans has materialized in the metro-east.
State Sen. Kyle McCarter officially announced Wednesday that he will challenge Congressman John Shimkus, a fellow Republican, in the primary in March.
McCarter, of Lebanon, told supporters gathered in Highland that he has a simple answer for people who have questioned why he would want to take on another Republican — possibly squandering GOP money that could be used to defeat Democrats.
“My response was, ‘He can resign,’” McCarter told the group.
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McCarter staked a claim to being the more conservative of the two, saying he decided to seek Illinois’ 15th Congressional District in response to Congress’ failure to defund Planned Parenthood, as well as Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage.
McCarter said the congressional district is one of the most conservative in the country, and “our voice should be the loudest” on conservative issues.
“My opponent has protested in front of Planned Parenthood one week, and then gone to Washington, D.C., and voted for the Continuing Resolution to fund planned parenthood,” McCarter said. “And I think that’s what happens when you just get out of touch. You think you can get away with it, but you can’t.”
Shimkus spokesman Steve Tomaszewski said Wednesday that most Planned Parenthood funding is through the states, as Medicaid payments. Tomaszewski said Shimkus has voted to redirect those entitlement funds away from Planned Parenthood. Also, Tomaszewski said, the National Right to Life Committee has stated that the Continuing Resolution was not the proper vehicle for defunding Planned Parenthood.
“Ironically, Medicaid eligibility is established by the state, and the federal government just pays its 50 percent reimbursement to the state,” Tomaszewski said. “McCarter voted for Senate Bill 2042 ... which was the federal funds pass-through bill. This bill did not include a prohibition on funding for Planned Parenthood.”
My opponent has protested in front of Planned Parenthood one week, and then gone to Washington, D.C., and voted for the Continuing Resolution to fund planned parenthood. And I think that’s what happens when you just get out of touch. You think you can get away with it, but you can’t.
McCarter said Shimkus has become too aligned with the establishment in Washington.
“Twenty years is enough. Twenty years to get something done is enough,” he said “We don’t need 20-year politicians.”
McCarter, a state senator since 2009, vowed that he won’t seek re-election when his current term ends in 2018.
“I’m term-limiting myself in the state Senate. I will not run again,” he said.
The pledge was a jab at Shimkus, who first ran for Congress in 1996 on a vow to serve only 12 years.
During a give-and-take with the audience, McCarter was asked which GOP presidential candidate he prefers.
“I’m really happy with the outsiders,” he said, mentioning Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, as well as Sen. Ted Cruz.
Several people in the audience were members of Tea Party-type groups from the region.
McCarter said afterward that his candidacy is more than a Tea Party movement.
“This takes in the people who’ve had enough of politics and don’t believe their voices are being heard,” he said.
McCarter currently resides near the border of the 15th Congressional District, but not within it. He said he’s looking for a home in Effingham.
McCarter’s 54th Senate District lies almost entirely within the congressional district — it covers about 25 percent of the congressional district.
Congressional candidates aren’t required to reside in the district they’re seeking to represent. The only residency requirement in the Constition is that the candidate, when elected, must be an inhabitant of that state in which he or she is elected.
“I don’t see that as an issue,” McCarter said.
But Shimkus has already pointed it out.
“Unlike my opponent, my family lives in the 15th District, and we never moved to Washington,” Shimkus said. “And I am proud to be a public servant — from West Point to the Army to teaching to county government to Congress.”
Shimkus said he welcomes the challenge.
“As a free-market Republican, I always say that competition is good. With that said, I will strongly defend my conservative voting record, my accessibility throughout the district, and the constituent service that my office provides to the people of Illinois,” Shimkus said.