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News

Challengers to Congress seat are good for the district

THE ISSUE: Republican wants to face Kinzinger
OUR VIEW: Competition is good for democracy

November's election was a heated one across the United States.
National issues, such as health care, defense, federal regulations and the economy were debated, among other topics, as the country selected a new president.
While these debates often were contentious, they challenged voters to consider the issues most important to them and for politicians to lay out their plans on record.
In the 16th Congressional district, however, Republican Adam Kinzinger was uncontested this fall.
Republican primary challenger Colin McGroarty was removed from the ballot and no Democratic challenger emerged.
That made it an unusually quiet election cycle in the 16th Congressional district. Voters had no choice.
If the number of names surfacing for Kinzinger's seat is any indication, 2018 may be a different story.
Although any challenger will be seen as a heavy underdog against the nationally-recognized, well-funded congressman, the election process will bring key issues to the forefront within the district.
It forces the incumbent to campaign, to meet with constituents, to answer questions and to listen to the voters' agenda.
Simply put, it allows voters to hold their congressman accountable.
This is when democracy works best.
That's not to say Kinzinger is doing a good or bad job, but that question should be brought to voters every two years with each election cycle.
The congressman has not had a serious challenge since 2012 when he defeated long-time Republican Don Manzullo in the primary.
The lack of a contest has allowed Kinzinger to stash away $1.5 million in his campaign coffers, another factor that will make any competitor a serious underdog.
In the Republican primary, Peru resident Jason Haskell recently threw his name into the ring, while Zane Marshall also is listed as a candidate.
Democrats vying for Kinzinger's seat are Chris Minelli, of Ottawa; Neill Mohammad, of DeKalb; and Nathan Arroyave, of Rockford.
It's not clear if any of these candidates will raise enough money or gain enough support to make it a close race, especially Democrats in a traditionally Republican district, but none of them have to for the district to benefit.
When votes are in the balance, the opportunity arises to push candidates on issues.
Though a challenger may lose, the incumbent may adapt policies based on what they hear on the campaign trail. In this way, officeholders become more representative of their districts.
The process reassures the district has its true say in Washington.
When voters are given no choice, officeholders are able to make their own agenda.

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