LEROY — Illinois Senate candidate Tom Pliura pledged to run a positive campaign, but he's taking veiled shots at his Republican opponent, state Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet.
The two are the only announced candidates for the Senate seat in the new 51st District that includes all or parts of Champaign, Christian, DeWitt, Douglas, Edgar, Macon, McLean, Moultrie, Piatt, Shelby and Vermilion counties.
Pliura, 53, a lawyer and physician who lives in rural Ellsworth in McLean County, made his formal announcement of candidacy Monday.
While he said he is a "very conservative" Republican who believes in "less taxation and small government," he acknowledged having given money to the campaign fund of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
Campaign disclosure records show that Pliura gave separate $500 donations to Durbin's campaign fund in 2001 and 2002, and also that he gave $250 to Durbin's Prairie PAC in $250.
"If I'm asked by somebody to go to a fundraiser, I don't think for a minute that Dick Durbin or Gov, Quinn is a bad person. I think these people all have children and families and whatnot," Pliura said. "And sometimes people get into a situation where I'm invited to a function and it's awkward for me to not give him whatever I gave him, a hundred or 200 bucks. I don't want to be rude to anybody.
"I've been a lifelong Republican. I've voted Republican every single time. If I give Durbin $200 or $500 it doesn't mean he's a bad guy or I'm a bad guy."'
Over the years Pliura also has given to the campaigns of many Republicans, including Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman of Danville, Rep. Dan Brady of Bloomington, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and former Gov. George Ryan.
Meanwhile, Pliura said he is in the state Senate race to win it but acknowledged he would not spend time at community parades. That was an overt reference to Rose, who said in Sunday's News-Gazette that he has been campaigning at "tons of parades and tons of festivals" this summer and that "there's no substitute for hitting parades."
"One thing I was asked and that was, 'Tom are you going to parades?'" Pliura said. "I'm not going to any parades. If being a good politician means that you go to parades, than I guess I'm not going to be one. I don't think the society wants to pay politicians to go to parades. That's not what people care about."
Pliura said he was prepared to self-finance his campaign.
Rose already has more than $160,000 in his campaign fund.
"I feel like there are candidates across the state who are career politicians and who are owned by political action committees. I'm not going to be owned by anybody. The way you get lots of money is to sell your soul to the devil," Pliura said. "I may have to fund it entirely by myself, and I'm willing to do that. I am not your traditional politician. I am not going to be bought and sold. And I'm not a career politician."
Asked if he was referring to Rose, who already has been elected to five terms in the Illinois House, Pliura was coy.
"I'm absolutely 100 percent committed not to be negative about anybody personally. I'm talking about career pols who don't hold a job, who don't work and who believe their jobs is to be a politician. I don't believe that was ever intended," he said. "We need term limits. I think people need to take a time in politics and then step aside after said time."
Pliura pledged to serve no more than two four-year terms in the Senate.
On specific issues, Pliura, who is both a practicing physician and a practicing attorney, said he would vote to roll back all of the 67 percent income tax increase approved by the Legislature earlier this year and would aim to cut eligibility in the Medicaid program.
"When I see somebody who has a job and they walk in with Blue Cross Blue Shield card and they also have a state Medicaid card because we as a state have loosened our eligibility standards so much that we've tripled the number in 10 years, that process needs to change and it needs to change immediately," he said. "We've educated the population to know that if they pull out their Blue Cross card they'll have to pay a co-pay and deductible. But if they pull out their Medicaid card they don't have that obligation. To me, that's just crazy."
If elected, Pliura said he would be the first medical doctor in the state Senate since the 1930s.
While defining himself as conservative, Pliura added that he is "an extreme environmentalist."
"I would like to see more green energy," he said. "I like to see the windmills. I think we as Republicans rely too heavily on foreign oil, drilling and drilling and drilling. I'm also a big proponent of ethanol."