By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
As he begins heading toward his third term in office, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, relishes the opportunity to help make a positive difference in the lives of his constituents.
Schock won re-election Tuesday in the 18th district with an overwhelming victory over his Democratic opponent, Steve Waterworth of Easton. Schock garnered 216,870 votes — about 74 percent — in 19 area counties, enabling him to keep working in Washington on behalf of West-Central Illinois residents. Waterworth earned 76,364 votes.
"I'm grateful for the large plurality of support," he said. "It speaks well for the hard work that my team has done every day for the 700,000 constituents that I represent in Illinois."
Schock said he feels good about the things he has accomplished during his first four years in Congress, and he's looking forward to making more inroads in the future for the newly restructured 18th Congressional District, which was redrawn after the 2010 census.
"Every year there is a new set of challenges facing the country, but I'm proud of what I did in the first four years," Schock said.
He also is proud of the campaign he waged against Waterworth, saying he tried to keep things positive.
"The voters responded well to that positive message," he said.
Schock was the nation's youngest member of Congress when he was initially elected to the U.S. House in 2008 at age 27. He was re-elected to a second two-year term in 2010.
Schock won passage of more of his own bills than any other freshman in 2009. He won a prized seat in 2011 on the House Ways and Means Committee. Schock also serves on the Trade, Social Security and Oversight committees, and he is deputy majority whip within the Republican caucus.
Schock said one of his priorities for his next term will be to focus on key issues, including the upcoming debate over whether Congress should continue to extend the tax cuts originally implemented by the George W. Bush administration.
"I'm going to have a front row seat in dealing with the tax rates that are set to go up," he said.
Schock also wants to lead an effort to reform the nation's tax code. He said the current 70,000-page code is "too onerous and burdensome" for Americans and needs to be pared down significantly.
Schock also plans to fight for a long-term highway bill that would generate funds for infrastructure improvements to keep the nation's roads in good shape as a conduit for American commerce.
Having reliable infrastructure "is a key for economic development," he said.
Schock said he has already spent considerable time getting to meet many of the 250,000 new constituents in the 18th District. The redrawn district now covers 19 counties instead of 20 as before.
Schock spent the past 1 1/2 years traveling through the district "getting to know constituents in the revamped area," he said. "The values of my new constituents mirror those of my current constituents."
Schock said one of his biggest criticisms of the Obama administration has been "the lack of a plan" to deal with Medicare reform.
But passing legislation isn't the only priority for Schock. He said "equally, if not more important, is the constituent work that I do" for residents of the 18th District.
Schock said he spends a great deal of time meeting with municipal officials, business leaders and state senators and representatives to see what his office can do to help spur government support for services to residents of his district.