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Two Republicans look to challenge U.S. Rep. Budzinski in Illinois’ 13th District

Joshua Loyd, left, and Thomas Clatterbuck will face off in the March 19 primary for the GOP nomination in the 13th Congressional District.

Republican voters have two options in the Illinois primary to represent the GOP against U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski, D-Springfield, in the general election.

Thomas Clatterbuck, R-Champaign, and Joshua Loyd, R-Virden, are vying for their party’s nomination later this month in the contest for Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, which snakes from a majority of the Metro East to Springfield and on to Urbana-Champaign.

Republicans have an uphill battle in the Democratic-leaning district. Democrats in the state General Assembly redrew the congressional districts in 2021 to gain a U.S. House seat. In 2022, Cook Political Report projected Democrats would have a 3-point advantage in the 13th District. However, Budzinski cruised to victory, beating now-state Rep. Regan Deering, R-Decatur, 56.6% to 43.4%.

Clatterbuck and Loyd will also be working from a big fundraising disadvantage. At the end of 2023, Federal Election Commission records show Clatterbuck raised about $13,000 and Loyd around $12,000. Budzinski raised a little more than $2 million.

“No, we’re not going to outspend Budzinski — but we don’t need to because we have other things that money can’t buy,” Clatterbuck said.

The Illinois Republican Party said it is staying neutral in the contest between Clatterbuck and Loyd.

Third-year law student

Clatterbuck, 31, is in his last semester of law school at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

He covered politics as a reporter for Springfield Daily, a now-defunct independent online news service.

Later, he worked in the Sangamon County Courthouse in Springfield as a deputy clerk. There, he joined his office’s union and helped people without lawyers seeking legal services or information. Clatterbuck said he grew frustrated that he couldn’t help those people more because he didn’t have a law degree.

That’s when he decided to attend law school, believing that the intersection of politics and law was the best point at which to help others and solve pressing issues. Clatterbuck took jobs working for Illinois Senate Republicans and Illinois U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, R-Hindsboro, to gain experience.

Despite the eventual GOP nominee being an underdog in this race, Clatterbuck said he thought the time was right to work on those issues.

“I saw that opportunity,” he said. “I wasn’t just going to let it go.”

Clatterbuck describes himself as center-right. He said he’s passionate about helping rewrite old laws that govern U.S. technology and helping shape new legislation on artificial intelligence issues, for example.

“When we think about the internet we have today, a lot of those questions were answered not 10 years ago but 30 years ago,” he said. “And I didn’t want to be on the sidelines.”

Clatterbuck said another key theme of his campaign is that he’s a believer in good government and making it work better on issues like Social Security and tax changes.

“It’s not sexy, but the nuts and bolts of government are really what Congress does all day,” he said.

As for his campaign, Clatterbuck said he will stick to the issues and avoid personal critiques of Budzinski and Loyd. There are too many big ideas to explore, he said.

Asked why he’s a better fit to represent the Republican Party, Clatterbuck said his work history speaks for itself.

From West Point to entrepreneur

Loyd, 27, describes himself as an entrepreneur. He and his wife run a photography business.

He served in the Army before attending the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he earned a degree in business management.

Loyd got into politics working for the office of state Sen. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, and on a previous campaign of U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro.

Loyd said he got into the race for two reasons. First, as a veteran, he said dealing with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can be a nightmare. Second, he said his brother was mugged in Carbondale last summer. On public safety, Loyd said the alienation of police officers has empowered criminals to act, adding that he’s upset with the direction the country is heading.

“It doesn’t seem like the people who are running it have that same passion — that same care,” Loyd said.

Beyond that, Loyd said his campaign has three main pillars: “teacher, preacher and service.” Those mean that he wants to improve education, support philanthropic organizations serving their communities and better local police departments and military, he said.

The self-described moderate said he tends to be more conservative on fiscal issues but not so much on social issues — like same-sex marriage.

“If someone loves their partner, and they want to spend the rest of their lives with them, they should be afforded that opportunity,” Loyd said. However, he said he doesn’t support Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Democratically controlled Illinois General Assembly’s backing of undocumented immigrants using public money.

Loyd said he believes his self-employment will help him with the campaign for Congress. While he respects his primary opponent, he said Clatterbuck would be a better fit for the statehouse.

Loyd sees Budzinski as being tied at the hip with Pritzker and others in state government who’ve run the state into the ground, he said.

“I just want to see our communities thrive,” Loyd said.

Early voting in Illinois has begun. Voters will cast in-person ballots on March 19. Budzinski, who is seeking her second term, does not have a Democratic primary opponent.

Illinois Public Radio

Illinois Public Radio

Illinois Newsroom gets stories from public radio stations from across the state, including WBEZ-Chicago, WCBU-Peoria, WGLT-Normal, WVIK-Rock Island, WIUM-Macomb, WNIJ-DeKalb, WSIU-Carbondale, WUIS-Springfield, and St. Louis Public Radio.

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