SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – State Sen. Darin LaHood won the GOP nomination Tuesday in the race to replace disgraced ex-U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, defeating an anti-establishment conservative writer in a heavily Republican swath of central Illinois.
LaHood heads into the Sept. 10 special general election as the favorite to succeed Schock, once a rising GOP star who resigned in March amid intensifying questions about his use of campaign and taxpayer funds.
During the classic Republican primary race, LaHood portrayed himself as far more conservative than his father, former congressman and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. He received early backing from the state GOP, raised more than the other candidates combined and picked up key endorsements, including from the National Rifle Association.
But opponent Michael Flynn, who was closely aligned with the late commentator Andrew Breitbart, rallied against the GOP "establishment," saying seats in Congress weren't meant to be handed down.
News reports chronicled Schock's redecorating of his congressional office in the style of the TV show "Downton Abbey," along with questions about his spending on concert tickets and trips for employees and mileage expenses.
"People are disappointed, saddened, upset," LaHood said. "They want to make sure whoever they put in there as their next member of Congress doesn't make the same mistakes, is a person that's of integrity, is somebody that has a track record, somebody that is going to stay grounded to the district."
A third Republican, Donald Rients, who works for State Farm, trailed in the balloting.
Two Democrats also ran: Springfield school board member Adam Lopez and high school teacher Robert Mellon. However, any Democrat will have a tough road in the sprawling GOP district that touches or includes more than a dozen Illinois counties.
Turnout was low for the special primary scheduled in peak summer vacation season, with many counties reporting well below 10 percent.