MOLINE, Ill. — Illinois voters will head to the polls for the 2022 midterm elections on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
For the first time since 2014, State Senator Neil Anderson (R) will not be on the ballot for Illinois's 36th district. After the state's once-per-decade redistricting process, Anderson was drawn out of the 36th. He now resides in and is running to represent the new 47th district.
That means a new candidate will soon represent the people of the new 36th district, which stretches from the Quad City area down to Galesburg and beyond to Macomb. Either Mike Halpin (D) or Mike Thoms (R) will be elected to the office in Springfield.
News 8 sat down with both candidates, to discuss their most important policy points and why they believe you should vote for them. Below, we have each candidate's complete, unedited interview. You can also view the full version of both interviews on our Youtube page.
Please note, the video at the very top of this page is a shorter version of each candidate's answers and has been edited down for time.
We begin with Mike Halpin, whose last name comes first alphabetically.
SHELBY KLUVER: Let's just say that you get elected on November 8. What are your top three priorities walking into the senate chambers in Springfield?
MIKE HALPIN: Yeah, so that's a good question. It's one every candidate should be thinking about.
My top priorities are to continue to try to bring jobs back to this area. Second is to continue to lessen the pain of the high inflation that we've seen over the past year and a half or so. And then third, make sure that we're continuing to pass responsible budgets that actually help people, but again, still provide for inflation relief.
I think those three things combined should be the singular focus for the legislature going forward until we kind of ride through this difficult period.
KLUVER: Over the last year, we have seen a rather large spike in either strikes or contract negotiations with some of the biggest businesses here in the Quad City area. We also have a workers' rights amendment on the ballot this fall. What are your positions when it comes to things like wages and workers' rights?
HALPIN: Yeah, so on every issue that you can think of I stand with workers. I want to make sure that Illinois is a friendly state for workers. I want workers to know that we're out there making sure that we're protecting them on the job, and we have a rigorous worker safety regime to make sure that they're not going to get hurt and not be able to take care of their families. I want to make sure that we're cracking down on companies that are stealing from wage theft from their employees -- making them clock out and then continue working things like that. Illinois is a very strong state for that. And I want to make sure that Illinois has the strongest possible laws when it comes to maintaining the rights to collectively bargain for wages, benefits, and working conditions.
And that's what the workers' rights amendment really is about, is making sure that no politician in the future can take us to a place where Illinois becomes a so-called 'right-to-work' state. I think the right to organize is a fundamental right of all workers, and we need to make sure it protected Illinois. And that's who I'll stand with at the end of the day.
KLUVER: Are there any other policies besides the workers' rights amendment that you would support as a state senator?
HALPIN: Well, the good news is we have supported them in Illinois, and so Illinois is a very worker-friendly state. We do have rigorous safety regulations to make sure people aren't getting hurt. We have a good unemployment system that the pandemic certainly strained, but we have a system that provides for payments to make sure that if you're out of work, you have the ability to feed your family still, while you're looking for that next job.
Illinois already has protections because I voted on it, to stop wage theft and make sure that companies are not taking advantage of their workers. And we already voted, and I voted for legislation that make sure that under statute, Illinois is not a so-called 'right-to-work' state.
But we want to make sure with a workers' rights amendment that it's in the constitution. So again, no politicians can undo what we've already done. Anything would have to come from the people.
Crime & SAFE-T Act
KLUVER: As a state representative, you voted to help pass the SAFE-T Act, which, in part, helps put more of the burden on the prosecution to explain why a defendant needs to be held. Explain why you voted for this and why you support it.
HALPIN: Well, first, I disagree that it puts a greater burden on the prosecutor. What the SAFE-T Act does is make sure that every person taken into custody is seen by a judge, and that judge is going to determine whether or not that individual is too dangerous to be out prior to trial.
Right now we've got a system that alleged criminals can come in and buy their way out regardless of the offense that they've committed. We don't want to have domestic abusers be able to be arrested, buy their freedom, and go back and immediately intimidate the person that they're accused of harming. We don't want drug traffickers or gang members to be able to raise money from their organizations so that they can be on bail and then and then flee the jurisdiction.
We need to get back to what is a threat-based system. It keeps dangerous people behind bars pending trial. But it also allows folks that may have made a mistake but can't afford the relatively modest bond, to make sure that they're not losing their job; they're not failing out of school, which can make them make it harder for them to be productive members of society.
I think this strikes the right balance.
There are some clarifications I think we need to make. One of the biggest things of misinformation out there is that-- I've heard people say that if someone's camped out on your yard and the police aren't able to do anything. And that's just false. Police have the discretion to take anyone into custody if they're on your property and to arrest them if they refuse to leave.
And if it takes a little clarification to the law to make sure that's what people understand it to be, I'm always happy to do that.
But I think right now, a lot of this is a distraction from the Republicans who don't recognize that this bill provides for mental health and support services for our law enforcement. It provides for extra training for law enforcement officers. It provides for the use of body cameras across the state, which both advocates and law enforcement agree helps build trust in the community. And it also provides a certification and decertification process that the Attorney General agreed with law enforcement.
And, you know, my opponent wants to go back and undo all of these good things in the bill, while misleading voters about what's actually in there.
Attack Ads & Misinformation
KLUVER: Well, let's talk about that. I was gonna ask about attack ads. Both sides have had lots of attack ads in this election cycle, and I'm sure viewers at home can tell. What is something that you've seen against your campaign that you want to clarify, that you say is false?
HALPIN: Well, of course, I'll admit to having a sweet tooth.
But I would say my opponent is trying to use my work as an attorney, even before I ever became state representative, to claim that I'm somehow unethical or corrupt. Contracts that they're talking about, or my work as a municipal attorney. I've represented several small villages in the area for over a decade now-- trying to make sure that they are complying with all the laws they need to and make sure that they're providing good services to their citizens.
And so I think it is certainly unfair in the sense to use that against me, that has always been trying to do a good job for those local governments.
But I'm not going to complain about campaign ads, it's par for the course. And we're just going to do our job reaching out to voters talking to them one-on-one and actually try and understand and respond to what their problems and what their issues are. And that's what I think the focus of the campaign should be.
KLUVER: Well, let's turn now to economy. Obviously, one of the biggest issues facing Americans across the country is inflation. What can you do as a state senator to help bring down prices in the 36th district?
HALPIN: Well, one of the things that I will do and what I've already done as a state representative is try to make it a little bit easier for some of these things.
I voted for the budget last year that suspended the grocery tax for the next year, and also voted to freeze the gas tax that was supposed to go up this year. We also voted for an income tax and property tax rebate that people are seeing in the past couple of weeks and will continue to see.
All in part to make sure that we're letting people know that we see the problem and we did do a little bit to help. It doesn't solve the entire problem. As a state, we can't control overall inflation. But we can try to make it a little bit better.
I would certainly like to do more if inflation stays high, as we look into the veto session or next year's budget because I think it's important to continue to respond as long as it's an issue.
We do a lot of things in Springfield to try to provide services. And the one thing that I heard almost every day when I go door to door, is to make sure that you're still balancing the budget. We would very much like to do additional tax freezes or tax rebates. But we still had a responsibility to make sure we had a balanced budget so that individuals and businesses can plan for the next year. And so as we move into the next budget cycle, and we see surpluses in our revenue this year, I'm hopeful that we're going to be able to continue to provide that type of relief going forward.
KLUVER: And would that maybe mean more temporary tax freezes or new types of freezes?
HALPIN: Yeah, I would say anything is on the table at that point. We want to make sure it's targeted to help the people that need it most.
I want to make sure that it's really focused on middle-class individuals-- people that are working hard every day trying to help put themselves or their kids through school. That have had young kids-- I've got two kids in elementary school and you know, we use a lot of groceries and we want to make sure that people that are feeling that pinch are getting the aid. And so that was something that was high on our list when we consider this year and so it would probably be probably behind the list again.
KLUVER: Also top of mind for a lot of voters this election cycle is health care. What can you do as a state senator to help bring health care costs down and make it more accessible for people in Illinois?
HALPIN: We've taken a lot of steps in Illinois to make sure that the plans that we regulate take into consideration costs.
One of the biggest things we did was limit the price of insulin at $35. We did that, ultimately the federal government, I think, did it as well. But we did it first because we saw how much of a problem it was.
We need to make sure that there's other many other medications that people need-- we're doing the same types of things.
We are a little bit limited in Illinois, in that a lot of the things we do are preempted by federal law. But we can tackle those issues for the insurance plans that are covered by state law. When we consider these issues, we have to look at that bigger picture, but we still have to do what's right by the folks here in Illinois.
And I think one of the biggest things we've done to help on health care is to balance our budget; to pay off $17 billion in unpaid bills, which include a lot of Medicaid bills, which allowed providers to get paid in a more timely manner so that more providers can actually accept Medicaid patients. And those Medicaid patients are the folks that are hardest hit-- they have the lowest incomes, and they really do need the help the most. And if we can encourage providers to use that and have those providers not have to worry about getting paid, that's going to help people get access to the health care that they need.
KLUVER: Briefly, let's touch on term limits. Where do you stand on them?
HALPIN: Yeah, one of the things I voted for last year was term limits on legislative leaders. I think it's important that we make sure that our legislative leaders don't accumulate too much power.
When it comes to term limits for ourselves, I always find it difficult to kind of hamstring the voters. I think if a candidate is supported by the voters, the voters should be able to vote for that candidate.
You know, I got my start with former congressman Lane Evans about 20 years ago, and he had served since the early 80s. And he kept getting reelected because he provided results. And I think it would have been an injustice to tell his constituents - the folks that lived in the 17th district - that no, I'm sorry, you can't vote for the person you'd like anymore, because we've set this arbitrary deadline or arbitrary window.
So you know, I wouldn't ever close the door completely on it. But I think it's more important that we limit our legislative leaders, so they don't accumulate that type of money and power and have that kind of influence over the members.
KLUVER: Wrapping up, this is a question I'm asking your opponent as well. Let's say November 8, does not go in your favor. Will you support your opponent and this democratic process?
HALPIN: Absolutely. Our democracy and our elections are the most important thing we have. All these other policy differences are secondary to the form of government and the system of government that we've had for over 200 years now.
I think it's important that we respect the results of elections and that we make sure that whoever's in office, we're rooting for them to succeed, regardless of whether we agree with their politics or not. It's certainly important to me and I like to think it's important to other candidates as well.
KLUVER: And if people want to help out with your campaign, where can they go?
SHELBY KLUVER: Let's say you win on November 8. When you walk into the senate chambers, what are the three most important issues to you?
MIKE THOMS: You know, it's been crime, corruption and economic development. If I can get those three elements going and working on modifying some of those issues, I think that would be a good start. But I'd be nervous! (laughs) That's for sure! But those are the issues that I really am pushing hard on.
KLUVER: And why those issues?
THOMS: We may talk about [this] later, but the crime has been increasing here lately-- not just in the Quad Cities and not just in my district, but across the U.S.
And we need to work on-- I'll call it reforming. The State of Illinois tried to do some reforming but I think went too far with the SAFE-T Act. There's no cash bail. And I think that's going to increase crime. In talking to law enforcement, they're very concerned about it; talking to the state's attorneys, they're concerned about it. And so we need to either reform that again-- but people deserve to live in a safe place and feel like they can walk down any street in the city and feel comfortable and not have to worry about issues. And so that's with the crime.
The corruption, we've seen a number of people-- and I guess naming names, Mike Madigan is one: in leadership for 40 years, 22 federal indictments against him, there was two other senators that just were indicted.
We need to work on corruption within the legislation, within the elected officials, and make sure that people are getting fair representation and is not slighted one way or the other or special interests. So that needs to be worked out. And then there's a crime for those, there's a punishment for that type of an act.
And then economic development. We need to continue to build our way out-- or not to continue to, start building our way out of this financial situation the state's in, versus buying our way.
Too many people are leaving the state of Illinois. We just see it! Tyson's left and Caterpillar's left and Boeing left. Thousands of employees are leaving and people are leaving the state-- 100,000 people left last year. And we can't keep on spending more money and having to increase fees and taxes to the people who left here. They're getting far-- it's getting carried away on the taxes and fees that are being charged.
People are running to other states. Go to buy gas — I couldn't tell you how many people I talked to that are running over to the Iowa side to buy gas because it's 60 cents a gallon cheaper. And we do have a lot of taxes on gas.
Crime & SAFE-T Act
KLUVER: Well, let's turn to crime. Illinois has passed the SAFE-T Act which is a criminal justice reform law. You've been outspoken against it. Explain your reasonings why.
THOMS: What this SAFE-T bill talks — there's no cash bail.
Historically, most crimes are committed with people that're doing second and third offenses. We need to make sure they stay behind the bars. So to protect the victims. How would you like to be a victim of kidnapping, second-degree murder, or be part of that family, and other crimes, and have that individual back on the street within 24 or 48 hours - potentially, and historically - committing another crime? And/or fleeing and not being able to track them down and bring justice?
Then on top of that, the financial side of it-- those monies are used in the courts to help pay the overhead in the courts, and we're going to lose that income. And where's that going to come? Our local counties and cities are going to have to increase property taxes to cover those expenses that are lost. So you know, there's little things.
Tresspassing was no longer — would be not a crime. They can ticket them, but they cannot force people off your property. Now unless they're hostile, but that's a concern that somebody could be a squatter in your garage, or whatever, and you got to go through the eviction processes and everything else to get them out of your garage. And that's just not right, we're really giving the criminals more rights than we are the victims.
But look at the gun crime. It's on the increase. Myself and some others went out to Washington DC looking for some help from the federal government. We talked to four senators, U.S. senators - two from the Iowa side, two from Illinois side - working on trying to get more resources - federal resources - in the Quad Cities to help fight gun crime. And once again, we did that unified. We did it between Iowa and Illinois. We did it between cities. We went as a collaborative group. And that's one thing I want to also take to Springfield is that collaborative, work-together attitude.
But back to the crime, we need to work on bringing crime back down. We had a good trend going, and this last year or so, it's going up and I don't see any relief with that with these new laws.
KLUVER: And just to be clear, for viewers, the SAFE-T Act does not get rid of all cash bail for every single criminal.
THOMS: It does not. The judge has some flexibility but less than he had before. Or she had before. And so there can be some cash bail, depending on the type of crime, depending on the background of the individual. There is some potential there that still can be a cash bail - or no bail at all, depending on the issue.
But unfortunately, a lot of them-- that could be the case because they're once again looking at keeping the jails empty, and they're worried about those expenses there.
KLUVER: I want to move on to workers' rights, which is one of the biggest issues on the ballot in Illinois this year. You have the workers' rights amendment and labor groups support it business groups oppose it. Where do you fall on this issue?
THOMS: You know, I am pro-union, I have no problem with unions and organization, businesses or anything else. But I think that it should be between the employer and the employees on that situation. It should not be automatic that it has to be an opportunity to organize.
Also being in the constitution makes it permanent. For the most part, you don't see anything coming out of the constitution. I don't think it's fair to hand-tie future legislators on decisions that are making... the economy changes, things happen in life, the culture changes. And when we put something that permanent in the constitution, it makes it very difficult to adjust the culture that you need to, at that time. It can be as short as five years from now, but it could be 50 years from now. Things change, and we can't predict that. And so I don't think that it should be in there is a permanent issue.
I'm okay with organizing. If 50% or better of the employees sign an agreement, and they want to try to organize? More power to them. I think that they have that right. And the company has right to be able to either accept that, or put their arguments up on whether it should be organized or not.
So I'm very supportive of the unions and organized labor because I think they serve a great purpose in a lot of areas, but just not in the constitution.
KLUVER: I want to turn to the economy. One of the largest issues facing Americans, and certainly people here in Illinois, is inflation. What can you do as a state senator to help bring down inflation in the 36th district?
THOMS: One would be, is to help businesses lower their cost of doing business. That would not just increase-- people say, oh, it just increases their profit. No, a lot of them it's very competitive, it's a free market.
But we as a state, add too many regulations to businesses doing business. And so I think the state needs to get out of the way, so to speak, in a more broad term, and help businesses grow and grow efficiently so they can lower costs.
Once again, also income tax. We keep on increasing or wanting to increase income tax for businesses. And all they do is they're gonna pass that cost on to their products and to the consumer, which causes inflation. And so we need to actually reduce the income tax base - on that part of it - so they can pass that on to the consumer to save that money. So that's one way the state can do it. Also reducing the sales taxes, on issues.
People always say, then where are you going to make up that lost income? And once again, long term, you make up that lost income on new businesses coming to town, [and] the growth of existing businesses. They in turn, are going to be paying more into the state, just as a percentage, it'll be less.
And that's where we need to grow is in growing businesses, adding more people into our population into the state to help the economy grow. And I believe that will lower costs.
A lot of it's also federal-driven. Once again, we see where OPEC is cutting back on the release of oil, and etc. And a lot of that is, is inflation, and cost of living is going up, is on the federal side. But the state can absolutely help it and work together with businesses to lower those costs.
KLUVER: What sort of businesses or industries would you like to see brought into this district?
THOMS: In this district, it seems to be a lot farming, agriculture, and so we can bring things related to that. Obviously, we already have John Deere here as far as that part goes. But you know, I visited Gray Manufacturing the other day, and I visited Corn Heads a couple of weeks ago, and those are ancillary businesses to the agriculture business-- we can continue to draw those businesses in because their customers are right here. And so it's a very efficient way to go. So that's a very, I think, positive way to we can work on growing our type of business we can bring in.
The other is light manufacturing and warehousing. We're in the hub of the intersections of 74 and 80, and going east and west and north and south. So it's really an ideal place for trucking and rail to be. So warehousing, logistically, warehousing and light manufacturers, it's an ideal spot for them in this area. So I would like to increase that.
People talked about technology and microchips and everything else and that's fine, and those things are growing. We need to make more in the United States. But I'm not sure whether this will area will draw that or not. It may. But it's light manufacturing, warehouse, logistics, agricultural-related type of issues.
KLUVER: Healthcare is top of mind for lots of voters this election cycle. What could you do to help make health care more affordable and more accessible for people in Illinois's 36th district?
THOMS: You know, I think that one thing that can make it more affordable - and it's kind of a domino effect - but if we put limits on dollars in lawsuits, for malpractice for doctors or pharmaceuticals and that sort of thing, to lower their malpractice insurance-- because that's what gets passed on to the consumer also. And so that is one I think that we can work on, is reform on insurance claims with malpractice.
The other is duplication of services. We need to work on a master database, so to speak. And the systems work that Unity Point system or Iowa health systems, Genesis have in their systems work well together, and data, but we need to share it worldwide almost.
And so if I have an x-ray for an issue at this one doctor, and then I go to the next doctor, and he says, "Oh, we need another x-ray." Well, why can't we share that information? You're adding expense to this problem. And they, once again, it's for liability issues, they say, 'No, we have to do it. It's our machine and our, you know, we look at it, and we might do it differently." And that just drives cost up, the duplications of functions that we have to try to treat somebody. So I think that's another area that's a problem.
Continue to open up the insurance companies. You know, the one size fits all-- I don't believe in one company or the state being involved in the health care insurance. I think that the more health care insurance carriers we can have, the better. It's more competitive and that's the free market. So I think that'll help drive down costs.
KLUVER: It's not any surprise to viewers, especially if you're watching this channel or anywhere in the Quad Cities, that there have been a lot of attack ads in this particular race. Is there anything that you've seen in an attack ad against you that you would like to clarify or claim to be false?
THOMS: Interesting you bring this up! Yes, the one is I have never voted for a tax increase. The city council has voted for some increases, early on back in 2017, and 18, for property taxes. But I did not. I only-- the mayor only votes when there's a tie. And so to tag that onto me, specifically, I think is unfair to the council. And yes, I was mayor, and if you want to call [me] the leader of it, and that's where the buck stops is with the leader, that's fine, I guess you could do that.
But there's also more behind those stories than what is being told also: is that the city's debt amount went up dramatically, years before that. It better than doubled, it almost tripled in debt that the city had. And that council at that time did not raise any property taxes for six years. And you had inflation, then you had that additional debt that you got to pay off, and so at some point you've got to catch up.
And so there is some justifications for increasing, at that point, is that we have to pay the bills. And so the money the city had spent, it did not bring in new revenue. And it's okay to go bond and spend some money if you're going to turn around and get a return on investment. What they did, did not. And I'm not blaming them for what they tried to invest in, but it didn't work. And so we needed to cover those expenses.
So they did raise it, but I don't know if it's fair to tag it specifically on me as a 'Thoms Tax.'
The other is I tried to sell the water and sewer. I did not try to sell the water and sewer. But as most business people-- if you've been in business, you know you have to look at all different alternatives of the projects and things to do and ways to process things. And so it was fair for the city to take a look at if we were to sell it, what is it worth, what would we get out of it, what would we lose out of it? And there's other avenues to, whether to keep it, to invest more money in it, and so we were looking at that-- strictly just looking at what opportunities and options the city had, not going on the mission to sell it. And so I think that's misleading, also.
In Springfield, I'm hoping that legislators take a look at things before they make decisions and change laws -- that they look at all different options. And I'm assuming they will and do, and so that's all the city was doing is just looking and investigating. Not to belabor that but it just, you know, it's fair to say. Some cities have found it financially advisable to do
Interesting enough, when Lane Evans was in office at U.S. Congress, the federal government sued the city of Rock Island for its operations of water and sewer. And the city of Rock Island was forced to spend $72 million in upgrading and changing their systems with the water and sewer. $72 million over a 10-year period the city had to spend. And so you've got to increase some fees to cover that. That's a large expenditure for the size town we are.
Our water filtration plant was 109 years old. We built a new one for $20 million. That has to be paid for. So whether private individuals or private company owns it or whether the city owns it, investments in need to be made. And to make those investments, you got to pay for the financing of those... interest rates and such.
And so that's where the justification is. Not that it's pleasant, but those need to be made at time to time. We are still one of the lowest in the Quad Cities, as far as water and sewer rates. So we've been able to maintain and keep it as competitive and low as we can for the citizens of Rock Island. So I think that's been unjustified that I was trying to sell it. I was not.
I'm trying to think of some of the other ones... taxes, water, sewer. Oh, chasing businesses out of town.
They had an advertisement, I was chasing small business out of town. I would go on record that I probably brought in and helped facilitate more small businesses getting started than most. I've been heavily, personally [and] heavily involved in economic development in the city of Rock Island. The staff is pleasured to work with. They're great individuals in the City of Rock Island. And we've made great strides in adding new small businesses to the city. To that point, this last year, we ended up with a $1.7 million surplus in revenue, because we brought new businesses in town. We did it without raising taxes. We did not raise taxes for the last several years - any tax, property tax.
And so you can do it. You can bring more revenue in without raising taxes if you work on economic development. We've grown a lot of businesses in the city of Rock Island, brought some new ones in. And there's five buildings under construction, as we speak right now in the city of Rock Island. All have impact agreements, 100% union, prevailing wage, and that's what it's about is growing that economy. So I think that some of those commercials have been a little misleading.
Mayoral Vs. Senate Duties
KLUVER: Well, let's talk about your role as mayor. If you win this election and you head down to Springfield, will you continue your duties as mayor of Rock Island?
THOMS: You know, I don't know. We'll weigh that situation after the election.
There's a number of cities and people are doing it currently; there have been over the years. And so it is doable.
You know, really, if you take a look at-- most legislators have a, I'll call it a second job or two roles. Senator Neil Anderson's a firefighter, Representative Mike Halpin's an attorney. So they all have a second job besides being legislator. And so you can view the mayor as the same thing, as you have-- mayor's one end and state senator is the second. And so it is legally an option, but we'll see if timewise if that makes sense after the election,
KLUVER: Wrapping up, let's say things do not go your way on November 8. Will you support your opponent and this democratic process?
THOMS: Sure, absolutely. No, we need to do that, we need to work together.
I've been about that throughout my whole campaign, is being bipartisan, working across the aisle and-- not just politically but with anybody. We need to work together and collaborative. Boy, if there's any theme that I've had as mayor, has been collaborative with the private and public sector and public and public - doing business with the arsenal, doing business with the City of Moline and collaborating together there or private organizations like DARI, etc.
And so why wouldn't I do that, and support anybody to work together? Whether you win or lose, we need to be here for the citizens. And that's what sometimes gets forgotten is we're not running for these positions just individually - for our own self-needs - we're here to be a public servant to the citizens.
And so whether you're Republican, Democrat, Independent, makes no difference. We've got to do what's best for the community, the district that we're in, and the state of Illinois to grow.
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