An incumbent with more than 30 years of experience in the Illinois General Assembly will face off against a self-described “baby” compared with other politicians for the Republican nomination in the 35th Illinois Senate District.
The candidates are incumbent Dave Syverson of Cherry Valley and newcomer Eli Nicolosi of Rockford. The winner of the June primary will go on to the November election, in which no other candidates have filed so far.
The 35th Senate District, part of the newly drawn state legislative district map approved last year, includes parts of five counties: Boone, DeKalb, Kane, McHenry and Winnebago.
Syverson, 64, first joined the Senate in 1993, representing the 34th District until 2013 and the 35th District since then. He currently is the Republican caucus whip in the Senate.
Syverson said one of his major priorities as a state Senator has been to try and reign in spending on new or extraneous programs, a process he said has been frustrating.
“Why aren’t we reviewing the hundreds of existing programs to see if we are getting a return on those investments?” Syverson said.
Syverson said he saw his role as being a voice for taxpayers, and help bolster the state’s jobs climate, which he said was not always a priority for legislators in Springfield.
“I have worked for years to improve the jobs climate, whether it’s keeping property taxes down, reducing regulation for businesses, and helping job creators be more competitive and hire more people,” Syverson said.
Nicolosi, 43, is running for state office for the first time this year, but he said he’s no stranger to campaigns.
For the past 20 years, Nicolosi has owned a web design and marketing firm, Astute Web Group, which has assisted numerous local, state and federal campaigns over the years, including Syverson’s, Nicolosi said.
“You just start getting to know people,” Nicolosi said. “You get the bug. You want to run for office yourself. Having run a lot of campaigns, I know exactly what I’m getting into.”
Nicolosi served on the Winnebago County Board from 2014 to 2018, during which time Nicolosi said he “fought against unfunded mandates from Springfield” and ensured money wasn’t taken away from public safety. He has also served as chairman of the Winnebago County Republican Central Committee since 2020.
As chairman, Nicolosi said he worked on growing the party and “shaking things up”, believing that he represents a more fresh and younger dynamic he believes the GOP needs.
“The party had grown stagnant. They were curmudgeons,” Nicolosi said. “I knew the party could be better, more diverse. We’ve gotten more involved, gotten poll watchers, election judges. This has been an interesting time with [COVID-19] and everything else.”
While Nicolosi said he respected Syverson, Nicolosi said he thought it is time for someone new and cited term limits as something he would support should he win the Senate seat.
Syverson said he felt he still had an important role to play in state politics as someone who had a “proven record of standing up to the governor and Springfield, as opposed to those who come around at campaign time and talk about it without any history of doing so.”
Syverson said a lot of his job was fighting back against the Democratic majority in the Senate, and shining a spotlight on legislation he disagreed with, such as expanding Medicaid to immigrants, so the public was aware and government was held accountable.
One recent piece of legislation Syverson said he was proud of was a proposed 18-cent-per-gallon sales tax cap on gas. Syverson and state Rep. Jeff Keicher announced the measure in March, which was meant to reduce the rapidly rising price of gas, Syverson said.
Syverson said he thinks Senate Democrats have effectively killed the bill, which has sat in the Assignments Committee since early March.
Syverson said he was excited by the prospect of representing western McHenry County should he win reelection, noting the high number of homes under construction in areas like Huntley and Hampshire in nearby Kane County, where Syverson recently opened an office with Keicher.
“In fast growing areas we have to keep up with infrastructure,” Syverson said. “Roads, water, sewer. This is a unique part of the state, with some areas seeing fast growth and other parts that I represent losing people and businesses. That makes things interesting but it’s all related to improving the jobs climate and making communities safer.”
If elected, Nicolosi said he would push to create a Northern Illinois economic development caucus to prioritize economic development. He said he’d like to involve municipalities, building trades groups and other entities who have often worked separately, to bring business into the region.
“I’d like to get myself and fellow legislators on both sides of the aisle to check social issues at the door and get to work showing unity on local economic issues,” Nicolosi said.
Nicolosi also described himself as a staunch advocate for conservative values like funding police and first responders and as a man of faith.
He said he’d like do something about the Safe-T Act, a sweeping criminal justice package passed last year during the lame-duck session, which Nicolosi called “garbage.” The bill has been opposed by Republicans in the statehouse for its adjusting use-of-force guidelines for law enforcement and creating a new police certification system.
“I am not the typical politician who shakes his fist and blames Democrats,” he said.