SPRINGFIELD — State Rep. Tom Demmer announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for state treasurer Tuesday, setting aside an all-but-certain reelection to the House to embark on the statewide bid.
The Dixon Republican is the first in his party to enter the race for the office that's held by two-term Democratic incumbent Mike Frerichs, who is seeking reelection.
“Now more than ever, we need a treasurer who will be a fiscal watchdog for Illinois taxpayers and willing to take on the corrupt Springfield machine,” Demmer said in his campaign announcement.
Demmer, 35, has served in the House since 2013, representing portions of DeKalb, LaSalle, Lee and Ogle counties in northern Illinois. He has recently served as a top deputy to House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs and is the caucus' point person on budget issues.
He is also the director of strategic planning for KSB Hospital in Dixon.
Viewed as a rising star in the Republican Party, Demmer has hinted for at least a year that he was eyeing higher office. He confirmed as much in an interview with Lee Enterprises last August.
He is believed to be a part of a slate of statewide Republican candidates that will be financially backed by prominent GOP donors, such as billionaire Ken Griffin.
Last week, another such candidate, former U.S. Attorney John Milhiser, announced his bid for Illinois Secretary of State. And speculation surrounds Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, who is considering a run for governor.
Frerichs was first elected in 2014, defeating former House Republican Leader Tom Cross by less than 10,000 votes. He won reelection in 2018 in a landslide against an underfunded opponent in a strong Democratic year.
However, Republicans believe the right candidates can will statewide in a favorable political environment, which 2022 appears like it could be.
“The vast majority of Illinoisans have not heard of Mike Frerichs but he stands tall among the tax and spend Springfield crowd," Demmer said.
Perhaps previewing the campaign to come, Demmer then proceeded to attack Frerichs on the idea of taxing retirement income.
Though Frerichs has since clarified that he is opposed to the concept, he suggested in June 2020 that if the graduated income tax amendment passed, it could open the door to taxing retirement income for high earners.
It was a gaffe that opponents of the amendment pounced on and likely contributed to its defeat at the ballot box later that year. And it's one Frerichs appears like he will have to continue to answer for in the coming campaign.
Demmer's campaign wasn't the only one slinging arrows, however. Frerichs' campaign fired back following Demmer's announcement, warning that the Republican "would unravel years of progress" if he were elected.
“Tom Demmer opposed every reform I have championed as treasurer, even when other Republicans were on our side,” Frerichs said. “He does not have the conviction to fight for Illinois families, and he does not have the backbone to stand up to special interests.”
Frerichs reported having more than $1.8 million cash on hand in his campaign account as of December 31, according to campaign finance reports.
Demmer has yet to file his quarterly fundraising report, but had $512,523 cash on hand as of September 30 and has raised $75,000 since, according to campaign finance reports.