Challenger from the right accuses Rep. Shimkus of not being cons - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Challenger from the right accuses Rep. Shimkus of not being conservative enough

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State Sen. Kyle McCarter, a St. Clair County businessman, is challenging Rep. John Shimkus in the Illinois Republican primary on March 15. State Sen. Kyle McCarter, a St. Clair County businessman, is challenging Rep. John Shimkus in the Illinois Republican primary on March 15.
Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) in an interview with News 3 in December Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) in an interview with News 3 in December

WSIL -- The national trend of Republican incumbents being challenged in primaries by a candidate claiming they're not conservative enough has landed in Southern Illinois.

Kyle McCarter, a St. Clair County businessman and state senator, accuses Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) of keeping his head down to not stir-up controversy so that he has a better chance of becoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The strategy is short-changing conservative voters in Southern Illinois, McCarter claims.

"Here we have one of the most conservative districts in the state of Illinois in the 15th, yet we have...the quietest representative," McCarter said in an interview Tuesday at News 3's studios. "He's more concerned about becoming the chairman of the Energy Committee than he is looking at the VA and calling for a forensic audit as I would."

A Shimkus campaign spokesman said he didn't want to respond to "the unfounded accusations McCarter makes."

McCarter also points-out that Shimkus violated his pledge to only serve six terms in the U.S. House. This fall will mark the 20th anniversary of Shimkus first being elected to the seat.

News 3's Dennis Turner asked Shimkus about that during a one-on-one interview at News 3's studios in December.

"The president asked me to stay," Shimkus said by way of explanation. "It was right after September 11th. And I came back here --- actually I made the announcement here at Marion."

A story from August 2005 in the Southern Illinoisan confirms Pres. Bush asked Shimkus to stay in the House during a meeting in the Oval Office. However, that was four years after 9/11, not "right after" as Shimkus claimed.

In his December interview with News 3, Shimkus suggested the term limit issue is old news.

"And that was ten years ago," he said. "So I think my constituents (have) forgiven me. And the way they show that is they continue to send me to Washington."

Ironically, McCarter is not one of Shimkus's constituents. He lives right outside the boundary of the 15th District that he wants to represent.

"I was actually drawn-out of the district in the last map," McCarter said. "I'm a mile south of that border."

Will that be an issue for voters? News 3 asked.

"No. None, whatsoever," he said. "I mean, you're not required to. And people see me in the district all the time."

If elected, it doesn't sound like McCarter will be as quiet as he portrays Shimkus.

"You know, some people say, 'Hey you guys, these people in DC just need to quit fighting and get something done,'" McCarter said. "I'm not sure that's the problem. I believe they get along too well. I think there's not enough people really standing up to fight for American values, to fight to defend our economy, and to fight to defend us physically."

McCarter added that he would have no problem forcing a government shutdown.

He's won the endorsement of the influential Club for Growth and backs-up his claim that Shimkus isn't conservative enough by citing a media group's rating. Conservative Review says Shimkus has voted for its agenda only 39 percent of the time, while McCarter points-out Sen. Ted Cruz is at 97 percent.

Shimkus campaign spokesman Steve Tomaszewski says that's only part of the story.

"Congressman Shimkus has been endorsed by the Illinois Farm Bureau, National Rifle Association, and National Right to Life Committee," Tomaszewski said. "Those are conservative groups that the people of Illinois care about."

Judging by a poll released last month, McCarter faces an uphill fight to win the seat. It found he only has the support of 13 percent of voters.

The primary is five weeks away.

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