The race for the state Senate in the 52nd District pits an incumbent who has served in the General Assembly since 2007 against a businessman experienced in preventing cybercrime and electronic fraud.
Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, said he decided to seek a third term because he wants to complete the work he has begun.
"I think there is a lot of work yet to do, whether it be supporting higher education and K-12 schools, preserving the environment or supporting the business community, so I want to continue to serve the people of our area," Frerichs said.
Frerichs' opponent, John Bambenek, R-Champaign, is the owner of Bambenek Consulting, a cybercrime and electronic fraud prevention firm and principal security consultant for Ciber, an IT consulting firm.
Bambenek ran unsuccessfully for the Champaign school board in 2007.
Bambenek said he decided to run for the state Senate to do his part to make the state better for his three young children.
"If you take the state debt divided by every man, woman and child in Illinois, you get $31,600," Bambenek said. "As a father of a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old, that's unacceptable to me. I want them to build their lives here in East Central Illinois when they grow up. But, if we stay on the same path, it doesn't look like it will happen."
Frerichs supports the addition of a riverboat casino in Danville.
"I support it because I have been contacted by many constituents who have asked me to support it," Frerichs said. "It's not their first choice for economic development for the area. It would bring in much needed revenue to be used in the schools in Vermilion County, roads and bridges and public safety. It would also create jobs and bring in tourism dollars."
Bambenek said he is opposed to bringing a riverboat casino to Danville.
"Casinos as economic development have not been successful in Elgin, East Peoria or the Metro East," Bambenek said. "We need to be creating jobs. When my kids grow up, I don't want to say the jobs I created for them is to be a bouncer or a cocktail waitress. The expansion of gambling is destructive from the real work that needs to be done."
Frerichs said one of his priorities during his next term would be turning around the state's economy.
"We need to provide stability to businesses, and we need to manage our deficit," Frerichs "I worked in a bipartisan manner on the extension of the Illinois Enterprise Zone Act, which has been credited for $50 billion of investment and 900,000 jobs. When we have more employees, it is good for the state's economy."
Bambenek said he believes the biggest obstacle to turning around the Illinois economy is its government, which he says has caused many businesses to choose to leave the state.
"We know about 30,000 jobs have left every month since the tax hike was passed," Bambenek said. "Our first step should be to get the budget under control and then get spending under control. Simply repealing the tax hike without doing the hard work of getting a handle on state spending will allow the deficit to continue."
Frerichs said balancing the budget and developing a trained workforce are keys to turning around the state's fiscal situation.
"To provide stability, we need to get the budget balanced and the bills paid. We need to make sure we have a well-trained workforce to make Illinois competitive."
Bambenek wrote a book,"Illinois Deserves Better," which outlines several proposed reforms to the Illinois Constitution that he says "would reduce the corruption and dysfunction in Springfield."
Some examples include establishing term limits for all state offices and reducing the powers of the party leaders in the Illinois House and Senate.
"One of the fundamental problems of the Illinois political system is that too much power is concentrated in too few hands," Bambenek said. "No bill gets passed without Mike Madigan's approval. Right now the power is consolidated in the head Democrat in the House and the head Democrat in the Senate. But even if we had Republicans in those offices, there still would be political abuse. That is why we have so much corruption in Illinois."
Frerichs said he wants the state to do a better job of funding the University of Illinois.
"If we want to keep college affordable for the citizens of Illinois, we need to do a better job of funding the university without tying their hands," Frerichs said. "One example was the elimination of general assembly scholarships, something I supported for several years."
If elected, Bambenek says he would work to make sure that the state pays the UI all the money it is owed.
"The state owes the university about $400 million, and the state can't make the payment," said Bambenek, a former research programmer for the UI. "We need to fix state finances and get those bills paid."