Bennett a unanimous pick for GOP ballot spot
PAXTON — When Tom Bennett ran for the Republican nomination for state representative in the 106th District more than two years ago, he raised nearly $23,000 in a three-month period.
He lost that primary election but he apparently made an impression.
The Republican county chairmen and their surrogates in the five-county House district north of Champaign-Urbana on Sunday chose Bennett to be the GOP nominee this fall.
Hear from Tom Bennett Wednesday at 7:40 a.m. on WDWS.
Bennett, 58, is chair of the Parkland College Board of Trustees and head of the Ford County Republican Party. He replaces state Rep. Josh Harms, R-Watseka, on the ballot. Harms dropped out of the race for what he said were family considerations.
In the five-person March 2012 Republican primary in the 106th District, Harms collected 33 percent of the vote to 28 percent for Bennett and smaller amounts for the other contenders.
On Sunday, the Republican leaders chose Bennett over former state Sen. Shane Cultra of Onarga, Susan Wynn Bence of Watseka, Michael Mercier of Watseka and Jason Bunting of rural Cabery.
"Tom has proven to be a very good fundraiser on his own in the past. He had a very well-funded campaign (in 2012)," said John McGlasson, the Livingston County Republican chair who headed the committee to choose Harms' replacement. "I don't think that money will be a problem for Tom. I feel as confident as possible that Tom is going to do the right things to get elected in November."
The 106th is "a heavily Republican district," McGlasson acknowledged. "Tom's an excellent candidate and I'm sure he won't take his opponent likely. I'm sure he'll work really hard, Tom always has."
McGlasson said Bennett was the unanimous choice of the county chairmen and their surrogates — Bennett was represented by former Ford County Judge Steve Pacey — and that the discussion was over about 30 minutes after the last of the five candidates was interviewed.
He declined to say anything else about the process.
"That was done in privacy among the five county chairmen," he said. "We chose Tom by unanimous vote."
Said Bennett: "As soon as we can get the paperwork going and all of those sorts of things and get organized, we'll start getting the word out, and talking to the voters and talking about the issues of course."
Bennett said he didn't think he was at a major disadvantage because his Democratic opponent, William Nutter of Watseka, had a four-month head start.
"Someone said (Sunday) that we only have 100 days for this. But you work with the cards you've got. And so we're going to do the best we can," he said. "I think it helps that I ran two years ago and I have some name recognition to start with. And I'm sure the Republican Party in each county will help me. They're strong so I think we have a really good chance in the fall."
Nutter has not filed a campaign disclosure report, an indication that he has not raised or spent $5,000 in his campaign.
Bennett said he would remain at his job with State Farm Insurance in Bloomington, and would not step down from the Parkland board or as head of the Ford County GOP.
"Nothing changes right now," he said. "I think we'll have to look at that as being a representative in the 106th. That will take a lot of time. It's a full-time position. But as of right now, nothing changes. The election is this fall and I have to get elected first.
"I'm like everybody else and I'm working at a job and paying bills."