Illinois House District 64 race pits Democratic challenger against Republican incumbent

The candidates in Illinois House District 63 include incumbent Tom Weber, left, and Rick Konter.

Democratic candidate Rick Konter says, “It’s time to go purple” on his campaign website as he challenges incumbent Tom Weber, R-Lake Villa, who touts his ability to work with Democrats to pass legislation despite being in the minority party.

Konter and Weber are running to represent Illinois House District 64, which covers parts of Lake and McHenry counties, stretching from Bull Valley in the west, along the northern half of McHenry, through Johnsburg, Spring Grove, Lakemoor, Fox Lake, Antioch and Lake Villa.

Weber runs an independent construction company, Weber & Sons Construction, and was on the Lake County and Lake County Forest Preserve boards from 2012 until he won election to the statehouse in 2018. Konter is a retired farmer living in Ingleside, who worked in a variety of roles, including as a carpenter, mechanic and small business owner.

District 64 comprises much of the northern portions of McHenry County, stretching from Bull Valley in the west, along the northern half of McHenry, Johnsburg, and into Lake Villa in Lake County.

Weber said his priority is to pass legislation on issues he’s passionate about, such as child safety, and as a member of the minority Republican Party, his concern is often to make sure that all voices heard.

On the Illinois Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today, one major problem was not enough members of law enforcement were consulted as part of the legislative process, Weber said.

”Bail reform is good,” Weber said, “but sheriffs, police, state’s attorneys, they all need to be part of the process. None of them were really engaged in this, and we see that time and time again in Springfield. We can’t have legislation that just appears at four in the morning.”

While aspects of the SAFE-T Act had been discussed in the years leading up to the bill’s passage, the bill itself was passed during the lame-duck session in January 2021 with little time for legislators to review the final language.

Konter said he supports many aspects of the SAFE-T Act, noting “we will not be turning murderers loose tomorrow” under the law and defending the elimination of pretrial cash bail.

“From a more conservative point of view, locking these people up costs us money,” Konter said. “They are nonviolent offenders, innocent until proven guilty. I think Republicans will say, ‘Oh, that does make sense.’ ”

However, Konter also noted the bill’s length and “legalese” and said if he’d been in the legislature at the time, he would have advocated for a pilot program first.

Weber also criticized Gov. JB Pritzker for holding a child welfare summit without informing him and several other members of the Family Law House Subcommittee about the event.

In contrast to how he thinks decisions are often made unilaterally in the statehouse, Weber said he is proud of his roles in various working groups and house committees on child safety and welfare. He is currently the only Republican on the 16-member Child Advocacy Funding Task Force, tasked with ensuring child advocacy centers in Illinois receive adequate funding.

One bill Weber co-sponsored this year replaced the word “accident” with “crash” on all state laws and pamphlets, and for that bipartisan success, he was named one of two Illinois Legislators of the Year by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Weber has been a consistent critic of the Department of Children and Family Service, which he said was motivated by the murder of five-year-old AJ Freund in Crystal Lake in 2019.

His mother, JoAnn Cunningham, is currently serving a 35-year prison term after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in 2020. His father, Andrew Freund, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, aggravated battery of a child and concealment of a homicidal death earlier that year.

Two former DCFS workers, Andrew Polovin and Carlos Acosta, face reckless conduct and child endangerment charges in connection with a 2018 DCFS investigation involving AJ’s family. Those cases are ongoing.

“Democrats and Republicans both want something to change [on child safety],” Weber said. “I’ll be a squeaky hinge on this issue in Springfield. I’ll work with people on issues, even if we don’t agree on everything.”

Konter also said he viewed his role, should he win election, as someone who could lower the tone and divisiveness that he thinks is a major problem in America.

He said he holds personal views that move between left and right, describing himself as a proud gun owner but also someone who is pro-abortion rights.

“I am so tired of the fighting and hating one another,” Konter said. “... The only way we can accomplish something is dialing down the hate and talking to each other like human beings, and then figuring out what it takes to run the state.”