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Three Republican candidates are vying for open 37th District Illinois Senate seat

Chris Bishop, Tim Yager and Li Arellano are running for the vacant 37th state senate.
Photos courtesy of Chris Bishop, Tim Yager and Li Arellano.
Chris Bishop, Tim Yager and Li Arellano are running for the vacant 37th state senate.

Three Republicans are vying in the March primary to replace retiring state Sen. Win Stoller in the solid red 37th District.

Stoller, a Republican from Germantown Hills, announced he’d be retiring after redistricting shifted the 37th District further north.

Chris Bishop, Tim Yager and Li Arellano all yield from the northern part of the district, which now stretches from Germantown Hills up to Dixon and Rochelle.

The candidates largely are in a lockstep when it comes to hot button issues like immigration, gun rights and public safety. They have all served in local government, and they say they have different priorities shaped by their experiences.

Chris Bishop of Dixon is a former teacher who now works in agriculture. He’s also a member of the Dixon City Council. He says serving on the council opened his eyes to the issues his community was facing.

“You get to make connections with other people in your area, because obviously I’m a city councilman, so if you run into somebody else, that's a city council person from your area, sit down, talk about common struggles,” he said. “You start seeing threads that people have, which a lot of times deal with our rural towns or housing, job issues, how are we bringing people into the state?”

He said one of his top priorities would be decreasing the number of school mandates, which he says make teachers jobs harder.

“Our school resources keep getting stretched, there’s a teacher shortage,” he said. “There's a financial shortage most districts would talk about. And so when you're putting those kinds of mandates on folks, you're just pulling more and more out of what they can do on a daily basis.”

He said local school boards should control more curriculum decisions.

Bishop said he’d also prioritize growing business, and giving local governments the tools to support that growth.

He said he’s also an advocate for the trades.

“I think it's important to give young people an opportunity to get into those trades because they're taken off, they’re well paying jobs,” he said. “All sudden, you get somebody that's in the trades, they're in a well paying job, they're able to maybe afford some housing.”

Bishop said other top priorities for him include re-examining the SAFE-T Act with first responders, and cutting spending.

Tim Yager is a farmer and former small business owner. He is a Henry County Board Member and is a Henry County Farm Bureau board member.

He said his top priority won’t be passing new laws, but repealing existing ones.

“I think we're overregulated,” Yager said. “I think we need to start focusing on what regulations we can roll back. I think in a typical year, we do 5000 new bills in the state of Illinois, very few of them are dealing with repealing bills.”

Yager said he believes it’s overregulation, along with high taxes, which is causing people to move away from Illinois.

He said as a farmer himself, he’s a critic of eminent domain. That’s a policy which allows Illinois to force people to sell their land for public use.

“The number one issue on that has been the CO2 pipelines, where they want to be able to use eminent domain to put a pipeline across the state, down to Decatur,” he said. “And I think if they're going to put that pipeline in, then they should be using capitalistic means. And they didn't negotiate with those farmers to make commercial agreements to put those pipelines and they shouldn't have the threat of eminent domain as a part of the negotiating tactics.”

Yager said he’d also advocate for using infrastructure money on upkeep more often, instead of starting new projects.

“A lot of these county roads and state roads are in terrible disrepair,” he said. “I think one of the big things I'm gonna be an advocate for is we pay a gas tax for a reason, that money is supposed to go to roads and bridges and so many times they're pulling that money off for other projects.”

Yager said his other top priorities are repealing the TRUST Act that prohibits law enforcement from working with federal immigration officials, and protecting the Second Amendment.

Li Arellano served two terms as mayor of Dixon and is a small business owner.

The city’s former comptroller Rita Crundwell was convicted of stealing $50 million from the Dixon. Arellano said one of his top issues is ethics reform because of what happened in Dixon, and similar cases of corruption statewide.

He said ethics reform should include giving lawmakers time to read bills before a vote, and empowering a third party to enforce ethics standards.

“We also need independent watchdogs over legislators, looking at ethics reviews,” he said. “And that's been known for years as you can't have your own body looking at the ethics, complaints of members of your body, we don't do that in law enforcement. We don't do that in any other form of government. And the state shouldn't be doing it, either.”

Arellano said the state also needs to buckle down on repaying debt and paying down their pension obligations.

He said that will put Illinois in a better fiscal position and allow the state to lower taxes, which will then attract more business and families.

“We need to stop complaining about the size of mismanagement of the past half century because we know it's horrific,” he said. “And both parties were involved in that and say, ‘what is day one of our current debt repayment plan? How much are we going to be saving in year five annually? How much are we going to be saving in year 10?’”

Arellano said as a small business owner, he would advocate for laws which help small businesses.

“What you tend to see is the bigger entities and companies that can afford lobbyists, they're making sure laws are crafted in a way that doesn't hurt them as much,” he said. “The small business owners don't have that.”

He said part of that would be lowering the tax burden for small businesses.

Arellano said other top issues for him include stopping illegal immigration and ending gerrymandering.

The candidates are up for election in the March 19 primary. There are no Democratic candidates running for the seat.

Camryn Cutinello is a reporter and digital content director at WCBU. You can reach Camryn at cncutin@illinoisstate.edu.