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Bryant survives GOP primary challenge in House District 115

  • Terri Bryant

    Terri Bryant

  • Paul Jacobs

    Paul Jacobs

By Geoffrey Ritter and Renee Trappe
updated: 3/27/2018 5:21 PM

State Rep. Terri Bryant, of Murphysboro, faced down a tough primary challenge from the Republican right on Tuesday and now will take on a familiar foe in the November general election.

Bryant, first elected to the House in 2014, won her primary over businessman Paul Jacobs, of Pomona, 4,608 votes to his 3,709. All vote totals are unofficial until they are canvassed.

The 115th District takes in all or part of Jackson, Perry, Washington and Union counties.

Now, Bryant again will face Democrat Marsha Griffin, a teacher and activist from Jonesboro. Bryant defeated Griffin in the 2016 general election with 55.1 percent of the vote.

Bryant's survival in 2018 was never a sure thing after she broke with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner last year to back a major state income tax increase and end the more than two-year state budget stalemate.

At her election-night party at the Murphysboro Elks, Bryant acknowledged the sometimes-acrimonious campaign between herself and Jacobs, but she told supporters the time had come to "bring everyone back" into the Republican fold ahead of the general election.

"This was a difficult election," Bryant said. "It's very hard to run against someone in your own party, and it's been divisive."

Bryant, a conservative, said after her vote in July 2017 to override Rauner's veto, "I was told very clearly that ... I would not get any support from the state party or from the more conservative organizations."

Instead, she got at least $175,000 from the Illinois Republican Party and the House Republican Organization, according to donations reported to the Illinois State Board of Elections between Jan. 1 and March 16, 2018.

Bryant said the GOP's change of heart came after she explained to the party leadership and some conservative organizations that southern Illinois was being disproportionately harmed by the budget impasse -- and that even its university was in danger of losing accreditation.

"There's an assumption that when you are involved in politics at a high level you know the whole state," Bryant said Thursday. "But people calling the shots don't always understand the different regions.

"When I sat down with the state party apparatus, I told them we have a university, five community colleges, three IDOT facilities, three (Medicare/Medicaid) facilities and three mental health facilities. All of them have state employees, for whom the health insurance hasn't been paid for two years."

Moreover, Bryant said she voted for a tax increase that every "true conservative" knew was coming.

Of the 10 Republicans who crossed the aisle last July to help House Democrats override the governor's veto, only three are still alive politically: Bryant, Norine Hammond of Macomb and Mike Unes of Peoria.

Most of the other seven did not run for re-election.

"I always intended to run again," Bryant said. "I believe I was doing the right thing for the right reason. I wanted to be able to say I didn't let my university close, or allowed more damage to come to the social service agencies in my area."

She also was endorsed by the National Rifle Association and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

Jacobs, an optometrist and owner of Von Jakob Vineyard, campaigned on a platform of opposing income and property tax increases, as well as conservative pro-life and pro-second amendment stances.

He said that regardless of the results, he was pleased with the campaign he ran, and hinted he might launch another one in the future.

"It's been a phenomenal learning experience -- win, lose or draw," Jacobs said. "I would do it again in a heartbeat."