Democrat Langendorf Challenges Freshman Republican Hays
By Jeff Bossert
It has been nearly two years since the retirement of longtime Illinois House member Bill Black, but his re-drawn district, which includes much of Vermilion County, still belongs to a Republican.
Now, Chad Hays is seeking a second term. But Michael Langendorf, a two-time candidate for Urbana government, thinks a Democrat should serve in that district for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Chad Hays characterizes his record as one of fiscal responsibility, based on experience gained during his eight years as Mayor of Catlin, and 20-plus years as a health care executive. Hays said he feels that commitment to proper fiscal management is what voters should expect from elected officials.
“You can’t run your own households around rules and circumstances that are different, you can’t run a business, large or small, under rules and circumstances that are different," he said. "And I think there should be an expectation of our elected officials that we they have to meet the same threshold.”
Langendorf said at the outset, his motivation for running was simple – he didn’t want to see Hays unopposed in a re-drawn district, which now includes his Urbana neighborhood. But the school social worker learned he and Hays have different ideas for improving the economy in the 104th district.
Langendorf said putting a riverboat casino in Danville, which both he and Hays support, is just a start.
"It’s going to take more than that, it’s going to take infrastructure, it’s going to take businesses coming to town, restaurants, hotels - so we have a lot to do if we want to have successful gaming going on there," he said. "I really don’t understand why a community with four railroads that intersect in the community – we have a great place to distribute and manufacture products, yet we have very few manufacturers left.’"
Hays said he has sought other ways to re-invent the economy in cities like Danville and Rantoul. Tops on his list - reforming Illinois worker’s compensation rates. Hays said those rates are four times higher in Illinois than in Indiana. And he cites one district business owner who has considered moving out of state.
"If he moved his entire facility 3,000 feet across the state line he could build a new facility in three years in his savings on worker’s compensation alone," Hays said.
Meanwhile, Langendorf wants to use his connections to groups like the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability and AFSCME state workers union to hold an economic summit in Danville. He also stresses the value of job training.
Langendorf said he and the incumbent do agree in some areas, including a commitment to paying pensions.
“I kind of make the example that if you didn’t pay your social security tax for employees, you’d be in jail," he said. "I think unfortunately, the statehouse and senate and governor’s office have failed miserably to take care of their responsibilities. If they had paid all along, they wouldn't have the $83.5 billion debt that they have."
Hays said the legislature needs all stakeholders at the table to discuss the long-term future of pensions. He has also pushing for millions in Medicaid reforms enacted by lawmakers but delayed by Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration.
Chad Hays said it is helped him to have succeeded Republican Bill Black, and he said he still reaches out to the former lawmaker from time to time for guidance. But as a 49-year-old full time legislator with a professional background, Hays said he’s also finding his own voice. As for Langendorf, the challenger said supporters see him as a common sense candidate.
Like Hays, he expects to devote all his time to serving in office if elected, vowing to end his career in social work.