U.S. REP. Darin LaHood has validated the faith voters put in him 13 months ago and is strongly endorsed for re-election to the U.S. House from the 18th District in Illinois.
LaHood, a Republican from Dunlap, won a special election for the seat in September 2015, after former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock was forced to resign early in his fourth term amid reports of questionable travel and office expenses.
While Schock was considered a rising star on the national stage and was a prolific fundraiser for Republican candidates across the country, LaHood has focused on being accessible and attentive to the needs of constituents in a district that covers all or parts of 19 counties.
He has, as promised, been personally engaged with communities large and small on critical issues that affect West-Central Illinois.
LaHood, for example, has been at the forefront of the fight against a growing opioid epidemic.
National statistics show that 6.5 million Americans abuse prescription drugs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled since 1999, and that 78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
Closer to home, Adams County Coroner James Keller reported that 34 of the 64 drug-related deaths in 2015 showed signs of prescription medication.
LaHood supported the Comprehensive Opioid Reduction Act of 2016, which has been signed into law and will allow nurses and physicians' assistants to administer medication to help beat addiction, while also creating a mandate on doctors to cross-check patients' opioid history. The legislation creates grants and other programs aimed at addressing drug abuse.
Moreover, LaHood supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a controversial trade agreement with 12 Pacific Rim countries now under consideration. He believes farmers, manufacturers and small-business owners in Illinois will reap considerable benefits from expanded markets.
"Ninety-five percent of the world's population lives beyond our borders," he said. "For example, 40 percent of the soybeans produced in Adams County are shipped elsewhere.
"Our economy is crawling along at barely 1 percent growth. In order to get us back to 3 percent growth, we must increase our global competitiveness. The best way to do that is to expand markets through increased global trade."
The trade agreement would help tap into the massive potential of the Mid-America Intermodal Port south of Quincy, as would expansion of the locks and dams along the Mississippi River. Once completed, the port project is expected to have a $94 million annual economic impact on 26 counties in Illinois, Missouri and Iowa.
In addition, with Congress enjoying just a 12 percent approval rating in the latest Associated Press poll, LaHood and fellow Illinois U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Western Springs, have introduced a measure to establish a joint House-Senate panel comprised of 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats to recommend reforms to make the legislative bodies more effective and accountable.
LaHood accurately points out that political gridlock has prevented Congress from reaching bipartisan consensus on a host of critical issues. For instance, it has failed to enact all of the necessary budget bills on time since 1996. He believes the Congress for Tomorrow project will help identify ways to improve how Congress functions.
"This has been done before," he said, noting similar efforts in 1945, 1960 and 1992 that yielded results. "People are frustrated with government. We need to come up with ideas from all ideological spectrums to be more efficient."
LaHood is being challenged by Democrat Junius Rodriguez, a history professor at Eureka College. Rodriguez has called for simplifying the tax code, reducing government paperwork for small-business owners, and for high schools, community colleges and public libraries to partner to create more learning opportunities for nontraditional students preparing for jobs.
However, Rodriguez has not stated a compelling case for replacing a legislator who clearly is growing in the job and will continue to be an effective, pragmatic voice for West-Central Illinois.
We strongly urge the re-election of Rep. Darin LaHood to the U.S. House from the 18th District.