Kasiar says Phelps must be more bipartisan after incumbent's narrow victory in District 118
With a difference of fewer than 8,000 votes, Southern Illinois voters re-elected incumbent state Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) to represent District 118 in the Illinois Legislature.
Phelps garnered 26,598 votes — or about 58 percent — to keep his seat in the Illinois House of Representatives, which he’s held since being appointed in 2003. Jason Kasiar, a Republican from Eldorado who opposed Phelps, captured 19,504 votes — or about 42 percent.
The 118th District includes all or part of Alexander, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski, Saline and Union counties.
Though he and many of his supporters feel disappointed over the loss, Kasiar told Southwest Illinois News he’s proud of how well he performed, especially considering the lack of spending power he had compared to Phelps.
“It just wasn’t my time last night,” Kasiar said. “I’m happy I did it. I have no regrets, and we’ll know better the next time if I decide to run.”
Kasiar was Phelps’ third opponent in six bids for re-election. In 2006, he bested Republican candidate Rhonda Belford by about 12,000 votes. Two years later, he beat Republican candidate Scott Doody by almost 20,000 votes. In 2010, 2012 and 2014, he ran unopposed.
Without financial support from the state Republican Party, Kasiar was able to come much closer to Phelps in the race. During the campaign, Kasiar said he understood Southern Illinoisans’ anger over the direction of the state, including its pension debt, unfriendly business climate and out-of-control property tax rates. He pointed to Phelps as a career politician who doesn’t really know what it’s like to live and work in the district.
Kasiar said he believes the vote tallies sent Phelps a message that the district is restless and keeping an eye on him. In Senate District 59, which covers House District 118, Democratic incumbent Gary Forby was ousted by Republican Dale Fowler. And in nearby House District 117, which covers all or part of Franklin, Hamilton and Williamson counties, Republican Dave Severin prevailed over Democratic incumbent John Bradley.
“I think the handwriting is on the wall,” Kasiar said. “(Phelps is) either going to have to change and start to be more of the bipartisan legislator he says he is or the next time someone runs against him, he’s going to be in trouble.”
Kasiar spent Election Day with family and supporters around the county but took in the results in the peace and quiet of his home. He said he thought he’d feel more stressed throughout the day. But he realized he was ready for voters to make the call because, ultimately, the job is about serving them. If their votes didn’t elect him, he was ready to accept the outcome. He would return to Beck’s Pharmacy, the independent drugstore he owns in Eldorado, and continue his work on the school board. He hasn’t ruled out another campaign.
He spoke with Phelps briefly on election night and agreed to work with the legislator to serve the district.
“I told him that the ball was in his court. I would be open to helping any way I could,” Kasiar said. “I think that’s the fairest thing that could be said at that particular point.”