Illinois state Sen. Darin LaHood may share a surname with his well-known father, former Congressman-turned-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. But LaHood wants voters to know he has his own conservative record to stand.
And that's been a theme of LaHood's campaign in Illinois' 18th District special election — a race to replace disgraced ex-Rep. Aaron Schock, who resigned earlier this year amid an ethics scandal.
"I love my parents to death," LaHood told CQ Roll Call in a phone interview Monday morning, "But in any family, you have political differences, and ours is no different than that in terms of views and policies."
LaHood faces Breitbart Editor Mike Flynn Tuesday in a special election primary that's basically the general election in this heavily Republican seat. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the district — which includes a large chunk of central Illinois from the Missouri border to Peoria — with 61 percent of the vote in 2012.
Flynn has tried to paint LaHood as a carbon copy of his father in the hopes of diminishing his appeal to conservatives. The elder LaHood served in Congress from 1995 until 2009, where he became a moderate Republican icon. He left Capitol Hill in 2009 to serve as transportation secretary under President Barack Obama, where he helped push Obama's stimulus package for infrastructure projects across the country.
"He’s just a career politician, he’s from another family dynasty that wants to dominate politics," Flynn told CQ Roll Call on Monday afternoon. "He’s gone from one government job or appointment to another, he’s never had any life in the private sector ... and he's part of that whole entrenched political class the voters of both parties are disgusted with."
But even Flynn admits that LaHood's family name gives LaHood an advantage on Tuesday.
In a short-sprint special election, having an established base and familiar face is often insurmountable for upstart challengers such as Flynn.
That has allowed LaHood to build a broad coalition of Republican groups, from the National Rifle Association to anti-abortion groups to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. LaHood also has the backing of every member of the state's GOP congressional delegation, as well as GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner — the first Republican governor of the Land of Lincoln since 2003.
"If you look at the organizations that have endorsed me in the race ... whether it’s the pro-family groups or the NRA, they’ve endorsed me for my record of what I’ve done [in the state Senate]," LaHood said. "I think it speaks for itself."
That support — along with his familiarity with voters thanks to his well-known name — has made LaHood the prohibitive favorite in Tuesday's primary.
LaHood trounced Flynn in the fundraising race , raising raised $929,000 to Flynn's $64,000, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
The money allowed LaHood to go up on television to introduce himself to voters and remind them of the July 7 primary — an essential turnout component on what's expected to be a challenging date to turn people out to vote.
"In the end, it’s an odd time to have an election," LaHood said. "The Tuesday after the 4th of July, people aren’t traditionally focused on an election, and that’s why we focused on a get-out-the-vote at the grassroots level."
The winner of Tuesday's primary will go on to a general election on Sept. 10.
Illinois' 18th District's special election is rated a Safe Republican contest by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.
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