A Republican challenger to State Senator Scott Bennett kicked off his campaign Thursday.
Savoy Village Trustee Alexander “A.J.” Ruggieri accuses his opponent of following Democratic leaders in Chicago, instead of voters in the 52nd District.
“What we have now is a senator who follows strict marching orders from the Chicago Democrat machine,” said the 43-year-old Ruggieri. “A senator that does not question and does not dare oppose the machine, no matter how far their policies are from the needs of the 52nd.”
Ruggieri, an attorney and a major in the Illinois Army National Guard, spoke at a news conference at the Champaign County Veterans Memorial in downtown Urbana. He was joined by supporters, including state Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady, from the neighboring 44th District. Brady praised Ruggieri as someone who would work to counteract the influence of Chicago area Democrats in state government.
“His (Ruggieri’s) background in the National Guard and his experiences in the National Guard, I think, help him rise above the crowd and provide the leadership that this district and that our state needs,” said Brady.
Ruggieri says he’s against the proposed graduated state income tax, and the leadership of Illinois House Speaker and state Democratic Chairman Michael Madigan. The Republican candidate says the COVID-19 pandemic must be taken seriously, but the state should give local leaders more say about how to respond to it.
“I believe the once over, kind of, one solution for everyone, does not work,” said Ruggieri. “I believe that more power should be given to the local governments, whether it be a city or a village or a county, or whether it be more regionally, run through the local senators and representatives, as to how best to treat that problem. Every place, every situation, requires a different look, requires a different solution. We cannot say that we’re just going to do this blanket thing that we think is good for everybody and expect it to work out. There has to be a balance.”
The 52nd state Senate District covers much of Vermilion and Champaign Counties, including Champaign, Urbana, Danville, Rantoul and part of Savoy, where Ruggieri is a village trustee.
Democrats have defeated Republicans to win the district with more than 60% of the vote during the past decade. Bennett was elected to his first full term in 2016, defeated Michael P. Madigan (no relation to the Illinois House Speaker). Mike Frerichs (now the state treasurer), defeated Republican John Bambenek in 2012.
Vermilion County Democratic Chair Germaine Light challenged Ruggieri’s ballot petitions, a challenge that was settled in the Republican’s favor this week, when a final appeal from Democrats was rejected in Cook County Circuit Court.