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Tipsword faces primary challenge in 105th Illinois House District

Two men smiling in side-by-side portraits
Don Rients, right, is challenging Dennis Tipsword in his reelection bid in the 105th Illinois House District.

A primary race has emerged in an Illinois legislative district north of Bloomington-Normal.

It's a rematch of sorts.

Dennis Tipsword of Metamora said he's just starting to learn how Springfield operates.

“My eyes have been opened to so many issues in Springfield that as those of us who have sat on the sidelines for our lives and not been a part of politics, it is a bit shocking to see exactly how our government in Springfield works for us,” he said.

Tipsword said he is seeking a second term as state representative in the 105th House District. It's a large, mostly rural area that stretches from McLean County to Peoria and from LaSalle County to Pontiac. And it's heavily Republican. Democrats did not run a candidate last year.

Tipsword said it's frustrating that Democrats largely ignore Republicans in the state legislature. The Democrats hold a supermajority in both the House and Senate, so they rarely need Republican support to get bills passed.

“The Democrats don’t really acknowledge us in a lot of situations and that’s the direction that we’ve headed in some of these decisions as of late,” said Tipsword, adding he sees an erosion of what he calls traditional values in Illinois.

He and many Republicans pushed back against the state's Medicaid-style health care expansion for undocumented immigrants. The Pritzker administration later scaled it back because of the cost.

“It was quickly running over the budget that they had set aside for it,” he said. “It’s things like that. We need to take care of our own here at home first.”

It was another bill that helps some immigrants that put Tipsword at odds with some in his own party.

Tipsword backed a bill to enable some non-citizens to become police officers, a measure intended to help police agencies ease the officer shortage. Tipsword, the chief deputy for the Woodford County Sheriff's Department, said he worked to limit the bill to only include immigrants who are eligible to work and own a gun. That didn't stop push back from some prominent voices on the hard right.

Tipsword accuses critics of deliberately misrepresenting the issue.

“I knew there would be some push back on the political side, but that was something I was OK explaining because it’s very much explainable,” Tipsword said.

The bill passed unanimously in the Illinois House.

That new law seems to be one reason Tipsword has a primary opponent next year.

Don Rients of Benson is running for the seat for a second time.

“I haven’t liked some of the votes done by the current representative, and I feel like we need new blood down there,” Rients said.

Rients said he also opposed a measure Tipsword supported to allow District 87 schools in Bloomington to buy a buildingto expand childhood education without a public referendum. Rients said the matter should have been left to the voters. The school district plans to use available funds, and vowed there will be no property tax increase.

Rients works as an IT analyst for an insurance company, and calls himself a grassroots Republican. Politically, he checks all the GOP boxes: pro gun, limited spending, anti-abortion. He said he wants to ban abortion "as close to conception as possible."

So how would Rients try to work with majority Democrats to advance his priorities?

“That’s a good question. I don’t know because the parties are getting so split between their beliefs that how do you patch that back up?” Rients asked.

Rients ran for the 105th Illinois House seat last year. He came in fourth in a four-way Republican primary. He also has two failed congressional bids in 2015 and 2018, when voters sent Darin LaHood to Washington. Rients noted he's been heavily outspent, and hopes fewer candidates dividing the vote will give him a better chance this time.

“I got second in Livingston County. So that shows you there’s room out there for that,” Rients said of his hopes to oust the incumbent Tipsword.

There’s still plenty of time for other candidates to join the race. The candidate filing period for the March 2024 primary begins Nov. 27.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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