Darren Duncan is a seventh-generation farmer in Vermilion County, who said he wants to be a voice for the 15th District’s agricultural and rural communities in Congress.
“I’m just an average guy, average farm boy from the middle of Illinois, hoping to go to Washington and bring that groundedness that we have from here, and apply the down-to-earth common sense that we have from this area, on some big issues,” said the Rossville resident.
Duncan said he shares the conservative values of John Shimkus, who is stepping down after twelve terms in the U.S. House. But while Shimkus went to West Point and then into the Army, including a tour of duty in West Germany, Duncan stayed in central Illinois, attending Western Illinois University, and following a family tradition of working the land in Vermilion County. Duncan, who grew up in Potomac before moving to Rossville, said he wants to add to the small pool of members of Congress with an agricultural background.
“I think that voice for agriculture and the small, rural communities is really important”, said Duncan. “So that’s a great part of why I’m running.”
Duncan said he’s passionate about conservative Republican values, but doesn’t believes in the “scorched earth” approach, and would be ready to work with colleagues across the aisle, if elected to Congress.
“There’s certainly things that I cannot compromise on, certain beliefs, the Second Amendment, strongly pro-life; those are issues that I cannot and will not waiver from,” said Duncan. “But other things, fiscal policy and things like that, I think it’s in the American people’s best interest for us to work with as many people as we can have solutions.
Duncan was appointed Vermilion County Treasurer in 2017, winning election to the post in 2018. Before that, he served on the Vermilion County Board and the Rossville-Alvin school board. Duncan said his interest in public service began after he was diagnosed at age 33 with colon cancer and successfully treated. The experience led Duncan to read Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life,” with its message that people are called to a life of service. But he said the experience also made him passionate about everybody having access to adequate health care.
But Duncan opposes the “Medicare for all” approach supported by Democrats such as Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. He said that would be “hugely expensive.” Instead he said he wants to see greater competition between healthcare providers.
“Right now, for example, I can’t buy insurance from a company in Indiana, and I can’t buy pharmaceuticals from Canada,” said Duncan. “We need to open up some borders, whether between the states or across the American border.”
Duncan said he also supports the creation of a health care safety net for those who can’t afford their own insurance, and that no one should be rejected for coverage due to a pre-existing condition.
Duncan said he’s a wholehearted supporter of Pres. Donald Trump’s trade policies, which he calls good for agriculture.
“And what’s good for agriculture is honestly very good for our economy as a whole,” said Duncan. He calls agriculture one of the building blocks of the American economy, with the health of agriculture having a ripple effect that can create jobs in other sectors.
Duncan supports the Trump administration’s handling of the trade dispute with China, including the “Phase One” agreement between China and the U.S., and the U.S. Mexico Canada Trade Agreement. He sees the agreement with China as a first stage toward an increase in U.S. exports to China, while the USMCA trade treaty as a way to lower restrictions that discourage exports to Canada.
Duncan said he also supports tax reductions for small businesses, so they can invest more in their companies and contribute more to the economy.
“As a conservative, I believe, getting the government out of the way for private enterprises, is always the best course,” said Duncan. “And I think the President, his administration has been strong advocates for that and doing what they can to clear the path for private entrepreneurs to do what they do best, which is, you know, produce, think, dream and accomplish.”
Duncan said another way to support business and agriculture is through improvements in the nation’s infrastructure, particularly in the 15th District.
“Having those (roads and bridges) be maintained well, and safe and secure is not only good for trade, moving our product along but also just the quality of life for the people in the district,” said Duncan.
Besides Duncan, the Republican candidates in the March 17 primary for Illinois’ 15th District congressional seat are Altamont resident and local school board vice-president Kerry Wolff, Mary Miller of Oakland in Coles County (wife of State Rep. Chris MIller), and Camargo physician, Dr. Charles Ellington. The Democratic candidates are Salem pharmacist and city council member Craig Morton, high school teacher John W. Hursey Jr. of Collinsville, 2018 Democratic nominee Kevin Gaither of Charleston, and Coles County public defender and Mattoon school board member Erika Weaver. They’re competing to succeed Republican incumbent John Shimkus of Collinsville, who is retiring from Congress after twelve terms in office.