Since there seems to be time for one last endorsement before our fascinating November electoral fling commences, let’s get on with it!
The genesis of this one is a somewhat strange one, too! As my wife and I were taking our traditional afternoon dog walk, we began to discuss ballot options. And when I mentioned 50th District State Rep Keith Wheeler, she said, “Oh I’m voting for Wheeler – I really like him!”
Fearing some sort of body snatchers scenario, I stopped dead in my tracks and asked her, “Wait a minute! Since when have you EVER embraced a conservative Republican candidate? And my teacher wife surprised me by adding, “Keith Wheeler does a great job advocating for our students with developmental disabilities and special needs.”
Now, that sounded like a reasonable response, but if she doesn’t laugh at any more of my jokes anymore I’ll have no choices but to call the Men in Black. (Google ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ you Philistines!).
The bottom line is, if my wife and I can get behind a Republican candidate, then so can you!
Keith and I met in 2010 during his errant initial state rep run, and let’s just say he had no clue about how to handle the press. But despite my having a little fun with him in the Beacon-News, he’s one of those eminently rare politicians who actually had a thick enough skin to shrug it off.
Either that or he’s smart enough not to argue with someone who buys virtual ink by the barrel. Either way, we’re good!
Undaunted by a tough primary defeat, Keith ran again in 2014, and despite his political patron inexplicably turning on him, he prevailed in a difficult four-way primary, and went on to beat his general election opponent by more than a two-to-one margin.
There’s certainly something to said for a candidate who can look at that smiling reflection in the bathroom mirror and say, “You can do better next time!”
As my wife duly noted, Keith has been a vocal Springfield proponent for the developmentally disabled such that the fine folks at Marklund honored him with their 2020 “Excellence in Advocacy” award. As far as political honors go it doesn’t get much better than that!
For reference purposes, Marklund is a nonprofit organization that serves infants, children, teens and adults with serious and profound developmental disabilities and special healthcare needs. They have residential locations in Geneva, Bloomingdale, and Elgin and their staff does the kind of work that would make quickly render most of us into a pool of liquid green Jello.
In addition to those laudable efforts, Keith has also been a vocal supporter of Aurora’s Mutual Ground battered women’s shelter. Among other endeavors, he sponsored legislation eliminating the statute of limitations on sexual assault offense which provided prosecutors with a greater capacity to get child predators off the streets.
As for this journalist, I’ve particularly appreciated Keith’s scientific and statistically based approached to dealing with the coronavirus. At a time when the pandemic became the most scorching of those hot political potatoes, he’s been one of the few behind-the-scenes advocates for a more reasonable State response.
But what I really like about State Rep Wheeler is, unlike so many of his GOP General Assembly compatriots, he refuses to reduce his political position to a bully pulpit from which he repeatedly beats Speaker Michael Madigan over the head with pointless platitudes.
That may be the easiest way to get reelected in our predominantly Republican districts, but unlike those persistent howlers and shriekers, Keith understands that building a consensus may be much more difficult, but it’s the only way to ever get anything done. And isn’t that why we sent him to Springfield?
Is Keith a bit too conservative on some social issues for my and my wife’s taste? Yes! But those issues are long-since dead downstate, and all SCOTUS appointments aside, that isn’t going to change anytime soon. Not to mention that the last thing we need is another Democrat down in the State capitol.
Have you heard about the “Fair Tax?” That’s just what we need right not, right?
I can’t remember if it was yours truly or Bill Maher who first said this, but with the obvious nod to the great L. Frank Baum, what we desperately need in these rather bizarre hyper-partisan times is Republicans with a heart and Democrats with a brain.
Keith Wheeler has that heart, and he has our vote!