Collinsville, IL – Mike Mathis, a longtime union member and public official, aims to give Gov. Bruce Rauner a black eye in the November election by winning a seat in the House of Representatives over Rauner’s hand-picked candidate.
Mathis, most recently circuit clerk of Macoupin County, is running in the heavily rural 95th House District, just north of Metro East and mainly located in Macoupin, Christian, Madison and Montgomery counties. The district can swing either way at election time, but most recently it went Republican.
So a victory there would solidify the Democratic Party’s hold on the House and make it a bit harder for Rauner to control things.
Mathis, unopposed in the primary, has already received the endorsement of the Illinois AFL-CIO, and he found a roomful of friends recently in a visit to the Southwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council.
That group’s leader, Executive Secretary-Treasurer Dale Stewart, noted that as a Macoupin County resident himself, he is well acquainted with Mathis.
“He truly understands what we do,” Stewart told the council. “I can’t tell you how many times I ‘ve called him for help in Macoupin County. He’s been through the wars.”
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
Mathis, 66, brings a loaded resume. He served in the Army, including a turn in Vietnam, then worked as a miner and has been a United Mine Workers member for more than 25 years.
He was elected alderman in Gillespie and served for six years before getting elected mayor for 12 years. In 1996, he was elected circuit clerk and served in that role until this past Jan. 1, when he resigned to work full-time on his legislative race. Lee Ross, a Democrat, was appointed to finish the term, which ends Nov. 30.
Said Mathis at the time: “It’s not fair to be accepting a paycheck as circuit clerk when I’m running for another office, so rather than be a burden to the taxpayers of Macoupin County, I’m stepping down.”
Mathis’ vast experience stands in sharp contrast to that of the incumbent, 23-year-old Avery Bourne, who was appointed by Rauner last year after Rauner chose the elected legislator, Wayne Rosenthal, as director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Bourne was a Washington University law student, less than four years out of high school when she was chosen. Her only work experience was helping with Republican political campaigns.
“This is the only job she’s ever had,” Stewart noted. “She’s never paid property tax, never done anything.”
So far, Bourne has been notable mainly for missing votes. She may not even make it onto the ballot in November – she has two opponents in the Republican primary.
“She votes exactly like Rauner wants her to vote,” Mathis said. “If she thinks it’s risky, she either votes present or just doesn’t show up. She doesn’t represent anybody who has ever had to work for a living, been out on strike or been out of a job. She doesn’t know what that’s about.”
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Mathis has a wife, Janice, a daughter and two grandsons. He said he decided to run in part to support Sen. Andy Manar, whose 48th Legislative District takes in Mathis’ district, and who has been a strong union supporter in the Legislature and a proponent for education funding.
“It’s not the way I had my life planned, but it was the right thing to do,” Mathis said. “It was the right thing to do for Sen. Manar. It was the right thing to do for middle-class working families in that district.
“This is about unions, and it’s about middle-class families,” he added. “That’s what the fight is all about, nothing else. They think they can buy this election. That’s what Rauner wants to do.”
Indeed, the Illinois Republican Party has already spent an astonishing $250,000 just to get Bourne through the primary, including St. Louis TV spots.
Mathis said he is looking for a different kind of help – volunteers.
“What I desperately need is people to help me,” he said. “I know I’m not going to match her money-wise, and that’s fine. What I can do is match her through the help of people like.
“I would not have won any of my elections without the help of union brothers and sisters. And that’s what I’m asking for today. The only thing I can tell you in return is you’ll see a 100 percent labor state representative – a union man working there for you.”
Mike Mathis’ campaign can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The headquarters is at 209a S. Macoupin St., Gillespie, with mail to P.O. Box 8, Gillespie IL 62033. For donations, call (217) 839-2353. He also has a Facebook page.