A hot rumor this week with Illinois political insiders is that former Congressman Bobby Schilling’s Communications Director, Jon Schweppe, could be preparing a run for the 71st State House seat. The seat recently switched hands from Republican Rich Morthland to Democratic newcomer Mike Smiddy. The 71st includes towns such as Morrison, Sterling, and Savanna.
Morthland lost in 2012 by 10 percent, which comes out to just over 4,700 votes. This looks like a decisive victory, but what makes the 71st a battleground district is the following: in 2010, Morthland was able to win the district with only 20,376 votes. He didn’t just win the district; he blew his opponent, Dennis Ahern, out by a margin of 58-42 percent. However, with 2012 being a Presidential election year, Morthland lost by 10%, even though he raised his vote tally up by nearly 3,000 votes to 23,070. 2014 is not a Presidential year, so the amount of votes will go down and could lead the way to a Republican victory. It is believed that Morthland will not try to reclaim the seat in 2014.
Jon Schweppe might be the Republicans best shot at the gaining the seat. Schweppe has experience running a good campaign while serving in a senior role campaigning for Schilling. Schweppe knows the area well, as he was a 2010 graduate of Augustana College and has resided in the Quad City area for 15 years. At just 24, Schweppe is rumored to be laying the ground work for a run by reaching out to influential leaders in the district, however only time will tell if he jumps into the race.
Although we are still months away from an official announcement, look for the following that could change the dynamics in the district. If current Rep. Mike Smiddy does not abstain from any pension votes, that could ignite the opposition against him. Smiddy is currently an East Moline Correctional Center Officer and would have a lot of skin in the game for any pension vote. Also, if Schilling decides to run again in the 17th, Schweppe would have to decide if he wants to run in the 71st or return to the Schilling staff. You can expect to see a lot of Jon Schweppe during the next year if you live in the 71st district.