Abdelnasser Rashid may have defeated incumbent state Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside) in the Democratic primary, but he has one more hurdle to overcome before he can make history as the first Muslim and first Palestinian American member of the Illinois General Assembly.
In the November general election, the 32-year-old Rashid will have to defeat 26-year-old Matthew Shultz, who ran unopposed in the Republican primary in the 21st District, the first time since 2008 a GOP candidate has run in Zalewski’s district.
“I’m frustrated that there hasn’t been a contested election my area,” said Schultz in a telephone interview with Landmark.
Schultz, who lives in and grew up in Brookfield, works as the executive director and director of social media and marketing for the anti-tax group Taxpayers United of America, which was founded and run by James Tobin who died last year.
Taxpayers United specializes in fighting property tax referendums and home rule efforts in the Chicago area. Schultz has worked for Taxpayers United since graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he majored in marketing and minored in philosophy.
“I kind of do a mixture of everything for them,” Schultz said.
Not surprisingly, opposition to taxes is a big part of Schultz’s campaign. He favors a five-year freeze on state and local taxes. Schultz said that he is especially concerned about crime and Illinois’s economic competitiveness.
“We’re one of the highest taxed states in the country and we’ve seen Boeing leave Illinois for Virginia, we lost Caterpillar to Texas and Citadel,” Schultz said. “It’s death by a thousand cuts. If we keep losing [companies] over and over again, it’s going to be harder to keep the Illinois economy alive, the keep other people here.”
Schultz said that he has seen high school friends and family leave Illinois for states that have more vibrant economic opportunities.
“A lot of people I knew from LT left for other states, like Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Texas Colorado,” Schultz said. “A lot of folks want to be anywhere but here.”
Schultz said that high taxes, crime and a culture of corruption is causing individuals and businesses to flee Illinois.
“Things have got to change,” Schultz said. “We have to bring stability back to our economy. We have to make sure that people don’t get hurt because of the actions of criminals and we have to make sure that our system is less corrupt.”
Schultz wants to give the legislature’s inspector general more power to root out corruption and favors term limits and the recall of elected officials.
Schultz had expected to make his case for change against Zalewski, but he said Rashid also has been part of the system in Illinois politics. Parroting a point that Zalewski made in his campaign, Schultz mentioned that in 2018 when he was making an unsuccessful bid for the Cook County Board, Rashid’s campaign received a $50,000 contribution from the Illinois State Democratic Party which was then controlled by former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan who has been indicted on federal corruption charges.
He also noted that Rashid has worked for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in Sanders 2016 campaign for president and said that Sanders is not known for supporting lower taxes.
“I’m looking forward to a clean campaign, focusing on the issues, things of substance that affect people in the district,” Schultz said. “I’m looking forward to a debate with him”
Schultz describes himself as a moderate, reform Republican. He says that he believes Joe Biden won the 2020 election and that he views the record of former President Donald Trump as a mixed bag.
“When he does good, I’ll praise him, when he does bad, I will be upset at him,” Schultz said.
On abortion Schultz said that he favors keeping Illinois laws allowing abortions in place, although he plans to survey the district views on abortion as he canvasses the district in his campaign.
“At the moment I would say no change to the current laws and the reason I say that is that I’m not a priest, I’m not a philosopher, I’m not a woman, so I don’t have a dog in this fight,” Schultz said.
Thus far Schultz’s campaign has only raised $11,405, but more than half of that — $6,000 — comes from Richard Uihlien, a billionaire prolific donor to conservative Republicans.
Uihlien, who is the owner of the Uline shipping products company, has donated more than $42 million to politicians in Illinois over the years and contributed just over $9 million to Republican gubernatorial nominee Darren Bailey’s primary campaign.
Schultz said he doesn’t know if Uihlien will contribute more to his campaign.
“I have no idea what his intentions are, but I am pretty happy that he’s willing to back a moderate reform Republican like myself,” Schultz said. “Bailey is more conservative than I am. I’m more about trying to work on pragmatic issues, things that are affecting people here in this district and I’m not as focused on conservative ideology.”