BLOOMINGTON — While U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood says his views are in tune with those of 18th District voters, challenger Junius Rodriguez believes LaHood is an outlier rather than a continuation of the area's "moderate tradition."
"Darin has linked his support to the tea party crowd," he said.
Rodriguez, a Eureka College professor and Eureka resident, promises to bring a more bipartisan approach to the seat as he challenges the incumbent Dunlap Republican in the Nov. 8 election.
"I think I've reflected the values of my district," said LaHood.
LaHood, 48, has the edge in government experience, including a year in the House after winning 2015's special election and four years before that as a state senator.
Rodriguez, 59, hasn't held public office in decades but has taught government.
Rodriguez lists the economy, efficient government and infrastructure among his highest priorities. His proposals include state and federal measures to reduce education costs, especially for displaced workers; expanding the sale and development of biofuels; a higher minimum wage; and a simpler tax code.
"Educational access is going to ... help people transition to new careers," Rodriguez said of job creation. He pointed to "Uplift in Place," a program he supports that would let local bodies use state and federal resources for professional training.
LaHood said economic growth lies in tax reform, including lower corporate taxes, less regulation and expanded trade, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Of college costs, he said, "There has to be some self-regulating there."
Among Rodriguez's government proposals are raising the Social Security retirement age; congressional term limits; independent control of congressional district maps; allowing more health care facilities to receive funding for serving veterans; spending estimates for congressional proposals; and better environmental policy.
LaHood supports a committee to reorganize Congress; a streamlined immigration process; and repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. He touted meetings he held this spring on heroin and opioid abuse.
For infrastructure, Rodriguez advocates for federal funding to support the Interstate 72 corridor from Missouri to Springfield and more strategic planning of highway projects.
LaHood noted he helped to pass a new federal transportation bill last year and to secure federal funding for upgrades at Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington.
LaHood also noted he opened the first 18th District office in Bloomington, better serving constituents, though Rodriguez said doing so this summer was a political move.
He also criticized LaHood for supporting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
"The two most important issues for me in this election are fixing the economy and the future of the Supreme Court," LaHood said. "I cannot support Hillary Clinton on those two issues."