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November 8, 2016 — Illinois General Election
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Illinois State House of RepresentativesCandidate for District 50

Photo of Keith R. Wheeler

Keith R. Wheeler

Small Business Owner & Elected Official
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Create Illinois Jobs for Illinois Families
  • Reform state government to work for taxpayers before asking taxpayers for more
  • Lower property taxes to make Illinois a more affordable place to raise a family and run a business



University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Bachelor's Degree, Economics (1991)



Keith Wheeler is a small business owner who lives in his hometown of Oswego, Illinois with his wife (Lisa) and three children (Mathew while serving as the State Representative for the 50th District. 


Keith was born in Aurora, Illinois, while his father was serving his country in Vietnam.  He grew up in Oswego and attended public schools and graduated from Oswego Community High School. 


He worked as a construction laborer while attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Following his studies, Keith started his own computer consulting company in Oswego in August of 1991. 


While growing his business to have a second location in downtown Chicago, Keith earned a reputation as a hard worker and an advocate for small business.  As a member of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), he travelled to Springfield and Washington, DC to advocate for issues on behalf of small business. 


Keith started the Fox Valley Area Action Council for NFIB in 2005 to work alongside local small business owners to give them a more effective voice on state and federal issues.


Keith and Lisa were married in 2007 and enjoyed a tremendous family life in their hometown community.


After serving as the chairman of the Kendall County Republican Central Committee, Keith ran for office unsuccessfully in 2010.  He continued on in public service as the Board Chairman of both the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Kendall County Food Pantry.  He also enjoyed coaching Pop Warner Football.


When the seat for the 50th District opened in 2014, Keith ran in a very competitive 4-way primary and came away with more than 50% of the vote before winning the general election convincingly.


During his time in office, Keith has worked hard to enact legislation to put Illinois on a better track, to create Illinois jobs for Illinois families.  He looks forward to continuing those efforts in a second term in Springfield.

Questions & Answers

Questions from Chicago Sun-Times (15)

Do you support term limits for legislators? Do you support term limits for legislative leaders? Please explain.
Answer from Keith R. Wheeler:

Yes. I believe that the intent of the Founding Fathers was to have citizen legislators instead of career politicians. Legislators would tend to focus on what is good for their districts instead of what is good for their own reelection. I also support term limits for legislative leaders. Fresh leadership will help to produce new ideas and forge new alliances and I believe that is good for the General Assembly.

Who do you think bears responsibility for the budget stalemate? Do you have your own ideas on how to resolve it?
Answer from Keith R. Wheeler:

I lay a majority of the blame for the budget stalemate on Speaker Madigan. Governor Rauner was elected promising to enact reforms that will turn Illinois around. The Governor has been negotiating against himself by promising to take some of his proposals off the table. Speaker Madigan has shown zero willingness to compromise on any of the Governor’s reforms. The status quo in Springfield has turned Illinois into a laughing stock. Speaker Madigan chooses to double down on the status quo and rely on job killing tax increases to solve the state’s problems. 

A June 3 New York Times op-ed was headlined “Higher Education in Illinois is Dying” because of significant funding cuts. Do you agree or not with Gov. Bruce Rauner that additional large cuts could be necessary?
Answer from Keith R. Wheeler:

I absolutely agree with the Governor.  While I am huge proponent of higher education, it is the cost of doing business in Illinois that has driven up the tuition and necessary state support costs. Currently, our state provides more than double the national average of state support per full-time equivalent student.  Yet, Illinois has tuition costs that are substantially higher than schools in neighboring states.  State mandates have driven up the cost of education in our state tremendously and have sent thousands of students to out-of-state universities in the process.  Many of those students likely won’t return back to their home state as they find opportunities where they get their education.  It hurts Illinois twice as we lose out on the return on investment for their K-12 education (both from local property taxes as well as from state support) and the fact that more of our best and brightest don’t have their careers and entrepreneurship (job creation) experiences in Illinois.

How should the state’s school funding formula be changed to give all children a better chance at a quality education?
Answer from Keith R. Wheeler:

There is a better answer to the question of how we fund our K-12 schools than the current formula.  I would like to encourage the entire General Assembly to use a more thoughtful approach than what we have done so far to build an actual consensus for a real school funding approach that benefits the students, parents, educators, administrators, and, most importantly, the taxpayers.

 I am going to remain open to new concepts regarding the school funding formula with careful interest as to how it will impact the schools in the 50th District.  

Without a budget, Illinois is spending much more than it takes in, leading to an ever-growing stack of bills, underfunded services and a growing deficit. What new revenue sources do you support to help fix this problem?
Answer from Keith R. Wheeler:

The new revenue source that would absolutely solve the problem would be in influx of new business in our state. We need to expand the tax base by luring companies from other states by enacting reforms. We need to bring down our work comp costs, decrease the corporate tax rate, and address tort reform, among a host of others. The most successful states with booming economies understand this. Unfortunately, the entrenched special interests in Springfield are standing in the way of badly needed reforms.

 Overtaxing a slow-growth economy will make the problem worse.  Illinois needs expanded economic growth as a revenue source for the state.

A constitutional amendment is on the ballot that would require money raised for transportation not be spent elsewhere. Do you support this concept? Also, transportation planners say more money is needed for roads and bridges, Metra, CTA rail services and the like. Do you agree and, if so, where would you get the funding?
Answer from Keith R. Wheeler:

I support the transportation lock-box amendment and am a co-sponsor.  

In the last session, the governor and Legislature turned their attention away from pension reform. What initiatives do you support to reduce the costs of pensions?
Answer from Keith R. Wheeler:

Our priority has to be to ultimately move Illinois’ pension system from the current, unaffordable, defined benefit program to a defined contribution program that will provide certainty to workers and affordability to taxpayers.  In the meantime, I support reforms that would allow the state to buy out pensions for a discounted amount of their current net present value.  Finally, legislation that prevents double-dipping.  Ultimately, government worker pensions should not be any more lavish than what every day Illinoisans can get.

Do you support measures to reduce Illinois’ prison population and divert more money into community-based services?
Answer from Keith R. Wheeler:

I do believe that we can reduce the prison population. I think that we have a large number of prison inmates who are mentally ill. Prison isn’t always the most appropriate punishment for some crimes and we should further efforts to help people with treatment where appropriate.

There are calls to reform the state’s civil asset forfeiture system, which allows police and prosecutors to seize and take – permanently – property from someone who has not been convicted of a crime? What is your view?
Answer from Keith R. Wheeler:

I have had conversations with constitutional experts who believe that this needs to be changed.  It seems that some efforts to crack down on the illegal drug trade have unintended consequences and additional safeguards are needed.  Innocent individuals who have lost personal or business assets through this taking need appropriate protections.

Do you support allowing transgender persons born in Illinois to change the gender marker on their birth certificate without undergoing surgery first?
Answer from Keith R. Wheeler:

Honestly, I am trying to understand more about this issue.

What is your view on so-called “death with dignity” — physician-assisted suicide — which has become a contentious issue in other states? California’s End of Life Option Act took effect on June 9.
Answer from Keith R. Wheeler:

I am staunchly pro-life. I believe that life should be protected both at conception and at the end of life. Doctors are required by the Hippocratic Oath to save lives. Asking a doctor to take part in ending a life is contrary to that oath. I am opposed to physician-assisted suicide. 

What measures do you support to reduce levels of gun violence?
Answer from Keith R. Wheeler:

This is an issue that I am still learning and listening on how best to solve. However, one of the main components of the solution to gun violence (which is primarily gang violence) must involve economic development. Gun/gang violence is a direct result of youth who find themselves with no other options to make a living other than a life of crime. While we need to reach and support at risk youth as soon as they enter the education system, there needs to be an economic future that is connected with education.  That doesn’t exist in many urban neighborhoods and has let the gang/drug economy dominate whole neighborhoods where violence begets more violence.

 In addition, it appears to me that those who use firearms in the commission of a crime are not being prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law.

 I believe that a big step would be to introduce school choice so that parents are not trapped into sending their children to failing schools. If we can improve competition among schools, we can improve the quality of all schools. Improving schools will lead to more children attending college. College graduates are much more likely to pull themselves out of deteriorating neighborhoods.

A number of states and local jurisdictions (including Chicago) have recently increased the minimum wage. Do you support or oppose a statewide increase in the minimum wage? If so, what should the new minimum be, and by when? Should local jurisdictions be prohibited from passing their own minimum wage laws?
Answer from Keith R. Wheeler:

I am opposed to raising the minimum wage in Illinois. It is hard to imagine that state government in Illinois (with its underwhelming economic track record) should really be dictating how the labor market should work.  Minimum wage increases result in the loss of minimum wage jobs. Minimum wage jobs serve an important purpose for low-skilled workers who are trying to get started in their careers. 

 According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 96% of hourly workers already make more than the current minimum wage.  If you raise the minimum wage, every worker making more than minimum wage is going to want a corresponding increase as well driving up the cost of hourly labor across the board.

 I don’t think it’s fair that a 16 year-old working in affluent Winnetka should get a minimum wage-based raise while that same minimum wage increase results in a single mother working in Bronzeville losing her job. In addition, minimum wage jobs were never intended to be a career with which to support a family. They are a stepping stone for new employees to learn a skill set and advance.  

In the past couple of legislative sessions, there has been a proposal to add a 1 cent tax on all sugar-sweetened beverages sold in Illinois. Do you support or oppose such a measure, and why?
Answer from Keith R. Wheeler:

I am absolutely opposed to raising any taxes until reforms are implemented. The decades of mismanagement in Springfield have resulted in Illinois being at the bottom of so many economic benchmarks. Our neighboring states are thriving because they understand that policies which punish business will inevitably force those businesses out. Illinois needs to come up with solutions that will attract business to our state instead of sending them packing.

In recent years, there has been a growing push to increase the development and use of renewable energy sources. Do you support or oppose these preferences?
Answer from Keith R. Wheeler:

I don’t believe that this is a question for a legislator. This is a question that the free market should decide. If renewable energy is cheaper and more efficient than the alternative, then the market will dictate its success.

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy


Keith is a fiscal and social conservative who believes that Illinois has everything needed to succeed.  There hasn’t been any natural disaster that has put our state in this perilous financial situation.  Terrible policies enacted by state government in Springfield have caused tremendous damage for families, business and social service providers across Illinois.  When the special interests that dominate Springfield take a backseat to the benefit of all of our citizens, Illinois can reach its potential as an economic powerhouse. 


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