Vermilion board chairman 'ready for the challenge' of Hays' seat

Vermilion board chairman 'ready for the challenge' of Hays' seat

ROYAL — Mike Marron says he's "ready for the challenge" of serving in a legislature that retiring state Rep. Chad Hays earlier this month said was being "increasingly silenced and dwarfed by monied bullies."

"It was a sobering commentary to hear, definitely. And it's not something I enter into lightly, especially in light of what happened with Chad and what he'd been going through," he said. "But that just makes it all the more reason that I need to step up and do something productive."

Marron, the 40-year-old Vermilion County Board chairman, appears to have a clear path to the Republican nomination for the Illinois House in the 104th District, which includes parts of both Vermilion and Champaign counties.

Former state Rep. Bill Black of Danville, who had considered running again for the seat, gave a glowing endorsement to Marron on Tuesday morning. Champaign County Auditor John Farney, whose name had been mentioned as a possible candidate, said he would chair Marron's campaign in Champaign County. And Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer told Marron he too would support him.

No Democrat has announced plans to run in the district that last fall favored Donald Trump by 5.5 percentage points over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Marron called himself "an independent voice" and made no reference in his campaign announcement to Gov. Bruce Rauner or to Rauner's so-called "turnaround agenda" of reforms, including term limits, property tax freezes, opposition to government unions or redistricting changes.

Rauner won the district two years ago by 25 percentage points.

"I've always considered myself a conservative Republican, but I've also learned to build consensus and work with the other side," Marron said.

He said the state government's top priority should be "to right the fiscal ship. Before we talk about anything else that's priority number one. We're never going to get out of the current mess we're in until we are able to grow as an economy and attract people back to our state."

"Now that the tax increase has happened (an income tax increase that Hays supported), it's incumbent that now that we have more revenue we make sure that that revenue is spent as judiciously and strategically as possible," Marron said. "We need to get all the bang for our buck, the best return on our investment that we can and try to get out of this deficit that we're in."

The only particular issue Marron mentioned was the need for changes in Illinois' workers' compensation system. But he also said the state needed to invest more in infrastructure and education.

"But we can't do that until we get on sound fiscal ground," he said. "I view our current situation as a temporary setback in what otherwise was a great story about great people in a great state. And I am ready to do my part in the authorship of the next chapter of that great story."

Marron noted that he farmed the same land in northwestern Vermilion County that his great-great-grandfather, Thomas Marron, an Irish immigrant, purchased in 1867.

"The family story goes that he set out to farm the prairie with a team of horses, and the prairie was so wet that he had to kill four or five water snakes for every pass he made through the field," Marron said. "The point is that Illinois was carved out of the prairie by enterprising young men and women like Thomas Marron. And we built the agricultural envy of the world."

Marron lives a mile from the Champaign County line with his wife, Brandy, a genetic research specialist at the University of Illinois, and their daughter Ainsley. He is a graduate of Murray State University with a degree in agricultural economics. He is in his second term as chairman of the Vermilion County Board.

Former state Rep. Black, who is 75, said he gave serious consideration to running again. He served in the House from 1986 to 2010.

But he said he needed to be with his wife, Sharon, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer at Carle Clinic in Urbana.

"I just hit myself in the forehead and said, 'What is wrong with you?' I mean this is crazy.

"She's always been my best supporter, going to parades and going to this and going to that. And when she's faced with this, for me to be on the campaign trail was the most selfish thought that I'd ever had in my life. I can't do that. I couldn't do that. And I should never have considered it."

Black called Marron "intelligent," "hard-working" and a record of service to Vermilion County that "is admirable and measurable."

He said he would do anything to help Marron win the seat in November 2018.

"I told him today I would work for him or against him, whatever will help him win the most," Black joked.

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