2022 Election Primary: 16th Congressional District

Term limits among top priorities for candidates in 16th Congressional District race

The Republican candidates for the newly drawn 16th Congressional District include Darin LaHood, who currently represents the state’s 18th Congressional District; retired Rockford engineer Walt Peters, Rockford attorney JoAnne Guillemette and Minooka business owner Michael Rebresh.

Republican U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood is seeking a fourth full term in Congress this year in a newly drawn 16th Congressional District that pits him against three GOP political newcomers.

LaHood, a staunch supporter of former Republican President Donald Trump and also the son of Democratic President Barack Obama’s Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, currently represents the state’s 18th Congressional District. On June 28, LaHood, R-Dunlap, takes on retired Rockford engineer Walt Peters, Rockford attorney JoAnne Guillemette and Minooka business owner Michael Rebresh.

The newly drawn 16th Congressional District winds its way through northwest Illinois, including all or parts of McHenry, DeKalb, Ogle, Lee, La Salle and Grundy counties. The district surrounds, but does not include, cities such as Rockford, Peoria, Bloomington and Normal.

The Republican winner of the June 28 primary does not currently have a Nov. 8 general election opponent lined up.

Rebresh, a trucking company owner-operator and former limousine service owner, cited frustration with outgoing U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Channahon Republican who is one of two Republicans on the House panel investigating the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Kinzinger opted not to seek another term in office following Illinois’ redistricting.

“When Kinzinger voted to impeach Trump on [expletive] charges, I felt that is not the sort of person I want representing me,” Rebresh said. He said he also felt Kinzinger’s staff was unhelpful when trying to track down unemployment assistance funds.

Guillemette, a civil trial attorney who is also a former teacher, said that if elected she would be the first Black woman from Illinois elected to Congress as a Republican.

As of LaHood’s latest filings in April, he has far outpaced the other three candidates in campaign spending and fundraising, having raised just over $2.6 million since January 2021 and spent $1.17 million in that time, according to data from the Federal Election Commission’s website.

Peters and Rebresh have spent $11,400 and $13,300, respectively, from the beginning of 2022 through early June on their campaigns. As of Friday, Guillemette has not reported any spending or fundriasing; candidates who have spent under $5,000 are not required to file with the FEC. Guillemette did not respond to an inquiry about her fundraising as of Friday.

The newly drawn 16th Congressional District includes portions of McHenry and runs through North-Central Illinois, skirting major population centers such as Rockford or Peoria.

Term limits

All four candidates said they would support term limits.

Term limits are a way to ensure candidates don’t become “creatures of Washington” and instead properly represent their district, said Peters, who said he felt rural Illinois lacked representation in the federal government. He said he would not serve more than two terms if elected.

“We are workers, we are builders, we are creators of wealth,” Peters said of the residents within the 16th district. “And that is not well articulated in Congress. There’s a lack of trust in what the federal government represents.”

While Peters said he wanted to keep his campaign “positive,” he called LaHood a career politician and noted that his father, Ray LaHood, served as Obama’s Transportation Secretary from 2009 to 2013.

LaHood, who has served in the 18th district since 2015, cosponsored a constitutional amendment that would limit congressional terms to three for House members and two for senators.

“Our Founding Fathers never anticipated legislators who would serve for 40 years or longer,” LaHood said.

Rebresh said he thinks some Republicans have become entrenched politicians and have stopped working to solve their constituents’ problems, even possibly hurting the parties’ chances for major gains in Congress.

“Republican politicians always kowtow and make concessions,” Rebresh said. “... That’s not going to get it done. We need to bring this country back on track. If we had term limits, we would no longer allow for people to make a career out of what is supposed to be public service.”

Guillemette said she favored a more flexible term limit – five or six for Congressional representatives – but said too many elected officials stayed in office past the point where their health and mental faculties were adequate for the job.

“But time and again people vote for the familiar because of the lack of challengers,” she said.

Gun control and school safety

All four candidates said the 2nd amendment right to bear arms was unassailable and therefore said they opposed enhanced background checks or limits on gun ownership.

Additional gun controls would only impact “law-abiding citizens,” Peters said, and would do nothing to reduce gun deaths, citing Chicago as an example of a city with both strict gun laws and high gun violence.

“Uvalde was definitely a personal tragedy,” Peters said, referring to the recent school shooting where 19 students and two teachers were killed. “As was Sandy Hook and what happened in Buffalo. I cannot imagine the tragedy of losing a child, but it is sometimes difficult to rationalize personal tragedies with constitutional rights.”

Guillemette also described Chicago as a “killing field for violent offenders” on her campaign website.

LaHood said his “heart breaks for those senselessly killed,” but as the district is home to many rural hunters and gun owners, he supports gun rights.

“The overwhelming majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens,” LaHood said. “We must balance these tragedies with the rights of privacy and civil liberties.”

Enforcement of current laws would also go a long way toward cracking down on irresponsible gun owners, LaHood said.

Rebresh argued people were the cause of violence, not guns.

“A gun is just a tool,” Rebresh said. “It can’t fire itself.”

For school safety, Rebresh suggested “locking doors” and felt schools should partner with police and social media to preemptively identify threats or dangerous community members.

Rebresh also suggested looking into “mental health hospitals” for people deemed a potential threat, where people would be kept indefinitely, but in a more humane way than historic asylums.

Guillemette, who described herself as a “child and community advocate,” a Christian and mother of a special needs child, said she is passionate about children’s safety but felt a bigger threat than guns was threats to freedom of speech and school choice, saying parents should be allowed to decide where and what their children are taught.

“In my early career, I was working closely with children and families,” Guillemette said. “I saw their [lives’] numerous difficulties, and that is what ignited my passion to protect them.”

Peters said he would support additional funding for police protection as a safety measure to deal with gun violence.

“We must back the blue so all citizens can feel safe, and so that children don’t feel they need to join a gang or resort to violence,” he said.

LaHood questioned why more schools weren’t using leftover COVID-19 funding to improve school safety. LaHood also said he co-sponsored the House version of the David Dorn Back The Blue Act, which he said would help facilitate the hiring of 100,000 new police officers nationwide.

The bill proposes increasing federal spending to $15 billion annually for new hires and salary increases for state and local law enforcement.

High gas prices and the economy

LaHood said “gas and groceries” were the top two issues he has heard about from constituents and said he wanted the U.S. to return to the pro-energy independence initiatives pushed during the Trump Administration, such as approving the Keystone pipeline.

“This isn’t just about people filling up SUVs,” LaHood said. “It’s about food production, manufacturing, transportation at every single level.”

Peters said he felt the Biden Administration and Democratic-controlled Congress were waging an “attack on fossil fuels” and it was affecting everyone, including farmers, though he did not elaborate further.

Rebresh blamed the pandemic for ruining his limousine business of 20 years. He said high gas prices would prevent it from ever coming back.

“At the end of 2019, we were ready to grow,” Rebresh said. “We had so much businesses we were subcontracting. Then the pandemic happened, and nobody was using a car service to do anything. Now, here I am, people not only have less money to spend downtown, but guess what? It will cost even more to go downtown because we have to make up for fuel shortfalls.”

Rebresh said the answer to high gas prices was to “drill, baby, drill,” citing former vice president candidate Sarah Palin’s mantra, and said, without offering specifics, that he would work to make sure the U.S. had an independent fuel supply and was a net exporter of fossil fuels.

“They’re all in on a Green New Deal,” Rebresh said of Democrats in Congress. “They want to us to take trains to Hawaii now.”

Guillemette said she broadly supported “economic growth and stability” as modeled on both the Trump and Reagan administrations. She declined to elaborate and referred Shaw Local to her website, which states she wants to “reduce reckless tax increases, reduce social spending, reduce the size and number of government agencies, and reduce our dependency on foreign countries for energy and other products to stimulate free market activity, rebuild our economically damages cities, and restore our nation’s confidence.”

LaHood cited his record of voting for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 as a prime example of his support for local economies and business owners, which LaHood said helped create jobs.

The legislation cut the corporate tax rate and has been criticized as favoring the wealthy. Several congressional representatives from the Chicago suburbs, including Lauren Underwood and Sean Casten, have argued the state and local tax deductions cap hurts middle-class families in their districts and have sought to amend that language in the bill.