Tuesday, September 23, 2014

House GOP Leader Jim Durkin (l) with Dr. Mark Neerhof (r)

By Nancy Thorner – 

A race crucial to dismantling House Speaker Michael Madigan’s grip on Illinois has broken out on the North Shore, where Republican Dr. Mark Neerhof is challenging incumbent Democrat Scott Drury in the November 4th election. Campaign polls indicate the 58th House District race is tightening and the House Republican leadership is paying attention.

An evening reception and fundraiser for Dr. Mark Neerhof with special guest, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, was held on September 17 at Elawa Farm in Lake Forest, IL.

Hosts for the event were Ted and Mary Brown, Michael and Joan Burke, Bob and Winnie Crawford, John and Kathy Ferguson, Jim and Sharon Kellock, Orren and Tina Pickell, Don and Nancy Surber, and Chris and Diana Webb.Dr. Neerhof admitted that he didn’t have a speaking voice for radio or TV, but it would be difficult for any fair-minded individual to take issue with Dr. Mark’s desire to help his fellow Illinoisans, as he has done on a more limited scale as a high-risk obstetrician caring for pregnant moms and their babies on the North Shore for more than 20 years. Neerhof’s demeanor speaks of honesty and trustworthiness, both rare attributes among politicians today. Combined with Dr. Mark’s love of country and his desire to give of his time and service in appreciation for what this country has given him, Dr. Mark Neerhof is indeed a rare candidate.

Candidate Neerhof spoke with conviction and knowledge on seven topics that, because of entrenched Democratic programs and policies, are holding this state back from achieving its potential.

Dr. Neerhof touched upon seven principles during his comments:

  • The American idea of limited government and maximum freedom that has made us the freest and most prosperous nation and the greatest national force for good in history. Instead, Illinois has the 4th highest tax rate in the country, the 4th highest worker compensation rates, and is last in job creation.
  • Free market capitalism is the fairest economic system known to man and the surest path to prosperity for all people, in contrast to how many people can be registered for public assistance.  Unending welfare limits the ability of individuals to become part of the workforce and further robs them of dignity and a sense of self-worth. Illinois now has more than 47 million people receiving food stamp (SNAP program) up from 17 million in 2000, far more than can be blamed on the recession and slow recovery.
  • Economic freedom bestows the right to keep as much of the fruits of your labor as possible. With the highest unemployment rate in the Midwest and the second highest in the country, high taxation and burdensome regulations are driving jobs out of state. Over a 15 year period, IL has lost over 1 million people to 42 other states. This would be like wiping 6 of Illinois’s largest cities off the map. One person is leaving Illinois every 10 minutes.
  • Education should allow choice and that it is morally wrong to trap children in failing schools. He supports both vouchers and expanding charter schools.
  • Pension promises should be kept, but it is wrong to promise pensions to our public employees that we will never be able to afford. He recommends keeping the pensions in place for people already retired, but offering new employees a defined contribution program. According to Moddy’s report (9/2004) Illinois’ pension liability of $100 billion (the amount of money that should be invested in the portfolios of five state-employee pension accounts), as a percentage of state revenue, is far and away the nation’s highest.
  • Debt should not be accumulated. Dr. Neerhof says that debt will limit economic freedom and opportunity for generations to come.  According to the State Budget Solutions Fourth Annual State Report issued in January of this year, Illinois faces a combined $5.1 trillion in debt. This equals roughly $16,178 per person, notwithstanding that Illinois’ revenue is at a record high.  Spending it the problem.  Illinois has consistently spent more money than it has taken in over the last decade, a recipe for disaster.
  • Free-market principles should be used to assist lower income people to access the same high quality healthcare that benefits higher income people.  Regarding Medicaid, 40% of Illinois’ budget goes for Medicaid. Furthermore, 40% of individuals on Medicaid don’t qualify for coverage, as their income is above the set figure that allows them to legally qualify for Illinois’ Medicaid program. Dr. Mark, as a physician, understands Medicaid patients need good luck in finding a doctor as the reimbursement rate is so low. It is also deplorable that Illinois ranks 51 out of 50 states in paying for people with handicaps.

Two ads recently produced by the Neerhof campaign were shown for preview. They will be used in a direct e-mail campaign, especially to target swing voters.  One of Neerhof’s ads, “Angie’s Story,” can be seen here.  It demonstrates the caring and concerned person Dr. Mark is in caring for his patient. The second ad has not yet been released, but it features one of the sponsors of Neerhof’s event, Don Surbur, whose business was adversely affected because of Illinois’ inhospitable business climate.

Rep. Jim Durkin, as House Republican leader in Springfield, spoke on behalf of Dr. Mark.  Durkin was chosen by House Republicans in August of 2013 to succeed former leader Tom Cross, who stepped down to run for Treasurer of Illinois. To Durkin’s credit, the division that usually occurs in the Republican caucus when selecting a new leader didn’t happen. The vote was a unanimous one with the Republican caucus holding together. Since being elected to the Republican leadership position, Jim Durkin has led House Republicans in the fight against higher taxes, increasing fiscal transparency and accountability.

Jim Durkin noted that having Dr. Neerhof in the House would almost be like having a twin brother with him (Rep. Durkin grew up in a household of eight brothers).  As to how Dr. Neerhof would fit in down in Springfield, Rep. Durkin rated high the urgent need for a physician in Springfield, especially to deal with the disastrous Medicaid program.  As of now, there is NO DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE.

Presently, the vote count in the Illinois House is 47 Republicans to 71 Democrats. Only one more Republican is needed in Springfield to eliminate the veto proof majority of the Democrats. Dr. Mark would be that one vote, although Durkin hopes to increase the number of House Republican seats by a factor of more than one in Springfield come November. Even so, House Republicans were able to stop some bad bills, including 1) a proposal to move the Illinois income tax from a flat five percent rate to a progressive structure, 2) stopping what was to be a temporary income tax increase of 5% passed in 2011 from becoming a permanent one, and 3) discrediting the millionaire surtax.

The most exciting news of the evening was when Jim Durkin announced that due to Dr. Mark Neerhof’s poll numbers moving in such a positive direction his race is now considered winnable. The Republican House has decided to become involved with Dr. Neerhof’s campaign with a financial investment.

Durkin is concerned about his four daughters.  Will they be able to achieve the American dream?  The message must get out that Republicans care about Illinois. This means that Republicans of all stripes must come together. Illinois needs Bruce Rauner as governor. If both the Illinois House and Senate pick up several new seats, Illinois will change. Republicans have a ground game in place as well as a team.

People in all parties must work together to return Illinois to a state where people are eager to live, where businesses and individuals flourish, and where those needing a helping hand can find one.


Grant Noble, Dr. Neerhof and Scott and Janet Helton of Lake Forest