Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

June 28, 2014

Shimkus faces opposition in November election

EFFINGHAM — No matter how his district has been numbered, Republican U.S. Rep. John Shimkus has cruised to re-election in the last five general elections since beating Democratic Rep. David Phelps in a race that pitted two incumbents against each other in 2002.

But Champaign County resident Eric Thorsland hopes to change that in this year’s election for the 15th District congressional seat. Thorsland, 52, believes he brings the right mix of skills and beliefs to serve the district. Plus, he said, Shimkus — who was first elected to Congress in 1996 — has simply been in Washington too long and has lost touch with his constituents.

“They like him in the district, because he’s quiet and he stays out of trouble,” Thorsland said.

But the Democrat believes his small-town background — and the rural life he now pursues — makes him a better fit than Metro East native Shimkus.

“I grew up in a small town and live in a little town now,” Thorsland said. “This district is just filled with dozens of these little places that you don’t realize how wonderful they are until you get there.”

Thorsland said his beliefs and interests defy classification.

“I’m not easily categorized as a Democrat,” he said. “I’m a gun owner, and I spend a lot of time on two wheels (motorcycles).”

But Thorsland says one of his biggest strengths was honed as chairman of the Champaign County Zoning Board.

“I have the ability to bring opposing sides together,” he said.

Thorsland said he’s getting no financial help from either the state or national Democratic party organizations.

“They haven’t made an effort against Shimkus since Phelps ran against him,” he said.

Thorsland said a vote for him would be a vote against the “old guard” in Washington. He said Shimkus has become a well-funded member of that group, receiving — he said — major contributions from the pharmaceutical, medical and energy industries.

“We didn’t get to negotiate Medicare Part D for a reason,” he said.

Thorsland, who grew up in New Jersey, lives in rural Mahomet with wife Lisa Haynes and their three children. While Haynes is an organic farmer in the area between Mahomet and Fisher, Thorsland is a research technician at the University of Illinois in nearby Urbana-Champaign. Thorsland has taken college courses at both Princeton and the U of I, though he did not receive a degree from either school.

Thorsland said he’s had to balance campaigning with work and farm responsibilities.

“But we have an event every day until Nov. 4,” he said.

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