URBANA — State Rep. Chad Hays may have an opponent this year after all.
Hays, a Catlin Republican finishing his first term in the Illinois House, was unopposed in last month's Republican primary and so far has no Democratic opposition in the new 104th District.
But Michael Langendorf of Urbana, who has run unsuccessfully for mayor of Urbana and for Ward 6 alderman, said he is interested in taking on Hays.
In order to get on the ballot, Langendorf would have to be slated by the Democratic party organizations in Vermilion and Champaign counties. Both Vermilion County Democratic Party Chairman Greg Lietz and his counterpart in Champaign County, Al Klein, said they are interested in seeing Langendorf run.
"Chad's a good guy but I think he's a little more conservative than the run-of-the-mill voter in the 104th District," said Lietz. "I'm trying to set up a meeting with Mike just to get acquainted and sort of see why he wants to run and how he thinks he can win."
About two-thirds of the votes in the 104th District are in Vermilion County.
Klein said he thinks "we'll need to move reasonably expeditiously" to see if any other Democrat is interested in being slated and, if not, moving to make Langendorf the candidate.
"I'd expect Mike to run a vigorous campaign," Klein said. "He's very interested in education and health issues and other issues that are important to the people in this district."
After last year's legislative redistricting, Langendorf's southeast Urbana neighborhood was moved out of state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson's district into Hays' district that includes nearly all of Vermilion County and much of northeastern Champaign County including Rantoul, Thomasboro, Gifford and Royal, plus parts of Urbana and southwestern Champaign.
"They seemed to draw this little box around southeast Urbana and put us in the 104th, so when I voted in the primary I noticed the box was empty and I thought, 'Gee, no one is running against Chad Hays,'" said Langendorf, 58, a school social worker in Vermilion County.
"I don't think it's good when anyone runs unopposed," he said.
Langendorf ran for mayor of Urbana in 1997, falling to Tod Satterthwaite in the Democratic primary, 78 percent to 22 percent. In 2009 he lost to Republican Heather Stevenson in the Ward 6 aldermanic race, 739-614. He also led the neighborhood opposition to construction of a Meijer store in Urbana.
"I work in Vermilion County. I'm not a carpetbagger," he said. "It's not like I'm just some typical liberal from Urbana, which I'm not. I'm not that far left. I'm liberal but not way far left like some of my fellow Urbana residents."
Langendorf said he knows his way around Springfield. He's active with the Illinois Education Association and is legislative chairman of the Illinois Association of School Social Workers. He said two Democratic state representatives — Lou Lang of Skokie and Robyn Gabel of Evanston — have encouraged him to run and pledged their support.
Last weekend, Langendorf said, he attended a fundraising reception for Hays. He got the tickets from an IEA representative in Springfield.
He said he didn't mention to Hays that he might run against him in the general election.
"I can't say that I dislike him," he said of Hays. "But no one should run unopposed."
Langendorf is a social worker at Middlefork School, a K-12 special education school in Danville, and also works at Oakwood Junior High School.
"I know a lot of people in Danville. I think I pretty much know every superintendent in every school district," Langendorf said. "It's not like I'm a stranger. I think I have a pretty good understanding of what Danville needs in terms of help. They need a lot of help."
Hays, in his first race two years ago, defeated Democrat Michael Puhr of Danville, 68 percent to 32 percent.