There are several state legislative races representing parts of Bloomington-Normal that will be on the ballot in the March 19 primary election. One has no incumbent, pitting two Republicans who are running against each other.

Chuck Erickson of Bloomington and Regan Deering of Decatur are competing in the 88th Illinois House District to replace Dan Caulkins — also a Republican from Decatur, who is not seeking re-election after serving since 2019.

The 88th district includes a large, mostly rural area east of Bloomington-Normal, stretching south to Decatur, and including Downs, LeRoy and Farmer City.

It's a heavily Republican district. No Democrats filed for the seat, so the primary will likely decide the race.

Deering's grandfather, Dwayne Andreas, helped build Archer Daniels Midland into one of the nation's biggest agribusiness companies.

Erickson stresses his working-class roots. His parents were factory workers in Gibson City. He was, too, before going to college to become an attorney.

Both candidates claim strong conservative credentials.

Erickson cites the 12 years he has served on the McLean County Board. “I have a solid, common sense, reliably conservative record on that board,” he said.

Deering ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year. She was elected to the Mount Zion school board last year.

Deering said the difference in this race comes down to leadership and perspective "coming off the sidelines, but having had experience as a parent, first and foremost, and an educator and a business owner and a community advocate."

Deering, who serves on several non-profits in the Decatur area, lays out her conservative values in stark terms. She said during her campaign launch "extreme Democrats are forcing their radical values into our homes and schools and relentlessly attacking our cherished freedoms and destroying our jobs."

Deering cites Gov. JB Pritzker’s COVID mandates and the state's assault weapons ban as examples of Democrats going too far.

“When we talk about the governor shutting down our economy and closing our schools and our churches with his mask mandate, that is progressive and that is taking away our freedoms and our families’ right to live a healthy life,” Deering said.

Whoever is elected will serve with the minority party. Democrats hold a super majority in both the Illinois House and Senate. That makes it hard for Republicans to get their legislative priorities addressed without working across the aisle and seeking compromise.

Erickson said he has shown on the county board that he can do that.

“I didn’t shut one side down because they didn’t agree with me 100% on one thing, and I think that’s experience…. I’m not going to be learning on the job how to work with others and how to get things passed,” he said.

Erickson added county Democrats won't admit they go to him for advice on some issues.

Erickson and Deering both support tax relief for family farmers in the heavily rural district. They differ on how much.

There's a bipartisan plan in Springfield to raise the estate tax exemption for family farmers from $4 million to $6 million. Deering supports it.

“When we have third and fourth and fifth generation that want to keep the business going, being able to raise that limit for the estate tax is a game changer,” Deering said.

Erickson called the plan a good start, adding he'd like to reduce farmer tax burdens even more.

Erickson and Deering both consider themselves taxpayer watchdogs. When asked what she would cut from the state budget to account for a cut in tax revenue, Deering didn't offer specifics.

“It’s thousands of pages,” Deering said. “I think the budget committee probably has to take a first glance at that.”

Erickson cited one example to find money — what Republican critics have called a Cadillac health care plan for undocumented immigrants.

“I’m not a person that’s going to go in there with a sledgehammer and start whacking, but [I] am a person that’s going to go in here with a knife and say we can take this out,“ Erickson said.

Last month, Erickson tried unsuccessfully to get the McLean County Board to ban any funding to help migrants that would be bused from the southern border.

Deering suggests funding for migrants is a tough sell.

“We have to recognize it as a humanitarian crisis. Many have come here looking for a better life, which I understand because this is the greatest country in the world, but we do have to have some hard truths about what resources we have available,” Deering said.

She also said she supports term limits for lawmakers to reign in corruption. She would not say how many terms she might serve.

Erickson did not recommend specific ethics rules for lawmakers, saying lawmakers need to serve for the right reasons.

The primary election is March 19. Early voting is underway.