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Meet the two Republicans vying for the nomination in the 91st House District

Scott Preston Jim Fisher
Courtesy / WGLT
Republicans Scott Preston, left, and Jim Fisher are running for the 91st House District, which includes parts of Bloomington-Normal, in the June 28 primary.

The 2020 redistricting process spawned some newly drawn districts in Illinois, including the 91st House District, which includes much of Bloomington-Normal and stretches west to include East Peoria and Bartonville. It’s an open seat that has attracted four first-time Statehouse candidates to the primary race.

Karla Bailey-Smith and Sharon Chung, both of Bloomington, are the Democrats vying for a spot on the ballot. And in the Republican primary, Scott Preston of Normal is running against James Fisher of Hudson.

Preston is a longtime member of the Normal Town Council, now serving in his ninth year. When it comes to name recognition and political experience, he has a leg up on Fisher, a farmer and retired insurance claims worker. Fisher has served as committeeman for the McLean County Republican Committee and on the Unit 5 school board, but he said that his limited experience in elected office is a point in his own favor.

“I’m not a politician,” Fisher said, pointing out that people are ready for fresh perspective in politics. Fisher derides career politicians for losing sight of why a person seeks public office in the first place. “That's not their career,” he said. “It's not supposed to be. It's called public service.”

Preston, who is also a small business owner, sees his 9 years on the Normal Town Council as a proving ground for state politics. He believes that experience will help him deliver on one of his major campaign promises.

“I have voted multiple times to reduce taxes on the people of Normal. And we need more of that out of Springfield, lowering taxes and lowering cost,” he said.

It should come as no real surprise that taxes are something that two Republicans mostly agree on. Especially when it comes to the idea that taxes in Illinois are unduly burdensome.

“Illinois is one of the highest exodus states where people are leaving,” Fisher said. “They're moving to other states where the taxes aren't as high.”

Preston sees pretty much the same problem. He said most of the friends he grew up with in central Illinois have chosen to build careers, plant roots and start families elsewhere – something he blames squarely on taxes.

“Bad policy out of Springfield has been crushing us and it's time for state government to focus on helping people and reducing the burden,” Preston said.

The claim that Illinois is hemorrhaging residents is a longstanding GOP talking point. But a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that rather than losing population, Illinois actually gained more than 250,000 residents between 2010 and 2020. The corrected number appears to weaken the GOP claim that Illinois is failing under Democratic leadership.

Asked about the prospect of working with Democrats, who hold a supermajority in the Illinois House, Fisher said he doesn’t have a problem with bipartisan cooperation, so long as it doesn’t require him to betray closely-held ideals. “I can work with anybody to get some things done. But what I will not do is violate the principles upon which I stand.”

Those principles place Fisher far to the right on issues like abortion rights, which he opposes even in the case of rape or incest. He does make an exception for cases in which the life of the mother may be threatened, because “when you're threatening someone else's life then you have the right to self-defense,” Fisher explained.

“I'm very pro Second Amendment,” Fisher continued. “A lot of things I believe that the state of Illinois does is actually violations of our U.S. constitutional Second Amendment of the right to keep and bear arms.”

That includes the FOID card, Fisher said, which anyone who wishes to legally possess firearms in the state of Illinois must carry.

“I shouldn't have to pay the government to exercise my rights,” Fisher said. The cost to apply for a FOID card in Illinois is $10, and Fisher says he would do away with that requirement.

Asked how guns should be kept out of the wrong hands, Fisher says anyone purchasing a firearm in Illinois undergoes an instant background check. He pushed back against the idea that tighter restrictions on guns reduces crime. Just look at Chicago, he said. “I mean, they have some of the strictest gun laws but they have the most violent crime up there. OK, so obviously that's not working.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has for years complained about the flow of illegal guns into the city from neighboring states where gun control laws are more relaxed than they are in Illinois.

When asked for his stance on the issues of gun control and abortion, Preston initially redirected to his own campaign themes. “I am I pro fiscal responsibility and lowering taxes. I'm pro cutting regulation. I'm pro helping small businesses who either are just trying to start out or trying to grow and provide more economic opportunity and jobs to people in our communities have and try to make an impact here locally,” he explained.

One the question of gun control and abortion, Preston eventually said the he was pro-Second Amendment and also pro-life, though he allows exception in the case of rape and incest as well as when a mother’s life may be threatened.

But Preston clarified that no matter what happens on the federal level in regard to Roe vs. Wade, abortion will remain legal in Illinois.

“From a practical standpoint, I think that I think that Democrats have pushed the abortion issue as far as they can take it in Illinois,” he said.

The Reproductive Health Act of 2019 effectively codifies the right to abortion in the state should Roe vs. Wade ever be overturned. It was signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat. That means whichever Republican makes it onto the ballot and the race for the 91st House seat, he won't be able to move the needle much on abortion access in Illinois.

Early voting has already begun for the Illinois primary which is set to take place on June 28.

This article has been updated to correct for a typo.

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