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Thomas McCullagh, Illinois Senate 49th District Republican nominee profile

His top priorities include a “direct to classroom” school funding program, corruption and taxes.

Thomas McCullagh, Illinois Senate 49th District Republican nominee, candidate questionnaire, 2020 election
Thomas McCullagh, Illinois Senate 49th District Republican nominee.
Provided photo

Candidate profile

Thomas McCullagh

Running for: Illinois Senate, 49th District

Political party affiliation: Republican

Political/civic background: Very active republican for many years.

Occupation: Small business owner

Campaign website:


The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent nominees for the Illinois Senate a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois and their districts. Thomas McCullagh submitted the following responses:

1. The COVID-19 pandemic has hammered the finances of Illinois. The state is staring at a $6.2 billion budget shortfall in this fiscal year. What should be done? Please be specific.

First and foremost, the Governor needs to seek the approval for all spending and COVID 19 related action from the legislature. I understand that at the beginning of this pandemic he needed to act quickly though Executive Orders. That was 5 months ago and it is time that the legislature approve of his decision making during this disaster. When it comes to the budget, well, it was going to be out of balance without COVID 19 because this Administration was banking on money from Pritzkers graduated income tax scheme that has not been approved by the voters.

2. What grade — “A” to “F” — would you give Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic? Please explain. What, if anything, should he have done differently?

I appreciate that the Governor is trying to implement policy that will help mitigate the spread. Regardless of how you feel about the State of Illinois Responses to different aspects of the virus, I truly believe that the Governor is doing what he thinks is right. However, his refusal to seek the Legislature’s approval of his spending and actions as this protracted crisis continues is, in my opinion, a slap in the face of those who believe in checks and balances in government. I believe that it is reckless for the Governor to use his office as if he has autonomous ability to spend and do as he pleases without seeking approval from the Legislature. For these reasons, I give the Governor a B for effort and an F for his approach.

3. In the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, legislatures in some states have taken up the issue of police reform. Should Illinois do the same? If so, what would that look like?

The murder of George Floyd was horrific and the worst example of law enforcement work in America. Every effort to eliminate this type of behavior from the ranks of law enforcement should be taken. However, the media has made it easier for those in the “Defund the Police” movement to vilify law enforcement officers as a whole. They have made it very hard to maintain law and order across the country; even here in the usually tame streets of suburbia. Our law enforcement community needs to know that we respect and support them as they keep our communities safe and respond to emergencies as our first line of defense.

4. Should the Legislature pass a law requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras? Why or why not?

I feel that body cameras should be worn by every officer in Illinois. Just like in government transparency is everything. I feel that body cameras can protect officers as much as it can help citizens when there is a discrepancy in statements. Too often an officer finds themselves in a situation that is video recorded and only a portion of the video makes it to the internet. I believe that body cameras allow for accurate documentation of whole incidents, not clipped web videos.

5. Federal prosecutors have revealed a comprehensive scheme of bribery, ghost jobs and favoritism in subcontracting by ComEd to influence the actions of House Speaker Michael Madigan. Who’s to blame? What ethics reforms should follow? Should Madigan resign?

No one should have as much power as Speaker Madigan in America. He controls all of the government in Illinois and has ruled both the ranks of the Democratic Party and the rest of Illinois with an iron fist. How can you ask who is to blame? Speaker Madigan created the system that this corruption has run amuck. Madigan’s top lieutenants are tarnished in sexual harassment claims, corruption investigations, pay to play allegations, etc. The Speaker needs to go away and the voters deserve term limits to ensure this consolidation of power never happens again.

6. Please tell us about your civic work in the last two years, whether it’s legislation you have sponsored or work you have done in other ways to improve your community.

Over the last two years I have been very active with numerous veteran organizations including K9s for Veterans. With this organization I am an Executive Director and I help find funding for the group, work directly with veterans and sexual trauma survivors to find service animals to help them in their path to recovery. During the pandemic I partnered with JJC and other organizations to help make PPE (mask shields) for nurses, doctors, and first responders so their N95 respirators could last longer. During those efforts we produced over 50,000 mask shields and I personally delivered most of them to Illinois hospitals, police departments, jails, and ambulance companies. I also helped coordinate and distribute over $500,000 worth of donated sanitization chemicals across my district and Illinois.

7. Please list three concerns that are specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to an important local issue that should be revised.

I want to have a direct to classroom funding program. Too much of the money that is directed for schools is pilfered before it ever reaches the classrooms. This program would be similar to the link program that the state of Illinois has, where teachers can go directly to local stores and purchase what they need for the classrooms, without the need for principal or school board approval and at the teachers discretion. This will not only help my district but the state as a whole, if we can empower teachers to get what they need directly with a discretionary fund that they control then everyone wins.

8. What are your other top legislative priorities?

Corruption and Taxes. Plain and simple.

9. What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.

I am opposed to the Governors constant attempts to tax more and spend more. He has already raised gas taxes, license plate fees and J.B. has not been in office for two years yet. Now, he is pushing for a complete shift in the way we tax Illinois citizens; treating one citizen differently from another. It is un American. Let’s not forget that the Democrat Treasure of Illinois has suggested that this would be a framework for Illinois to tax retirement income. Illinois cannot take much more of these tax increases. Vote no on the Graduated Tax!

10. Illinois continues to struggle financially, with a backlog of unpaid bills. In addition to a progressive state income tax — or in lieu of such a tax — what should the state do to pay its bills, meet its pension obligations and fund core services such as higher education?

We, as a State, have so many challenges to face. But, until voters force our elected officials to be honest about the fiscal realities, they will continue to pass wildly out of balanced budgets and refuse to look at the hard facts of our financial situation. I am concerned that if we continue down the path Democrat controlled government has led us we may find ourselves in an irreversible situation. We need to spend less. Period. This won’t be easy but unless we make some real choices it will only get worse.

11. Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?

I know my opponent is on the record as wanting to tax retirement income, but I strongly feel we should not tax retirement income. Illinois benefits on many levels from retirees staying in Illinois. These retirees are the backbone of our communities, volunteering for community programs, food banks, mentoring programs...the list goes on and on. Our seniors bring a depth to our society that teaches wisdom and the social contract that makes America great. Taxing retirement income will absolutely create a mass exodus of our most valuable citizens. We need to figure out our problems but not at the expense of our community and elderly.

12. What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?

We have made some really big steps in the way we approach School Funding by passing the new funding formula which has increased what most school districts in Illinois receive from the State. I think that this was a step in the right direction. I would like to work with members of the General assembly to improve access to STEM and vocational training in our public education curriculum to help guide more students to a career path.

13. Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?

Law enforcement needs to be given the resources it needs to combat these types of crimes. An example of the State not holding up its end of the bargain is the backlog of Firearm Owners ID (FOID) card and concealed carry paperwork. The Aurora shooting happened a few years ago by an offender that should have never been given the right to own or carry a firearm, but, because the State Police have not been property funded to maintain our records and enforce current law, ne’er-do-wells continue to go unchecked. Property fund our law enforcement and you will have your laws property enforced.

14. Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.

All State elected officials should be limited to a certain number of terms in each respective office. There are different proposals out there and I am very interested in working with whoever is willing to pass legislation to apply term limits broadly.

15. Everybody says gerrymandering is bad, but the party in power in every state — Democrats in Illinois — resist doing anything about it. Or do we have that wrong? What should be done?

Mike Madigan is the problem here. He has created an environment of self dealers and a Democratic Party focused on power and not democracy. Until the Democratic Party of Illinois changes its ways we will never see an end to gerrymandering nor any other changes to the corruption we see every day in Illinois. We can start by canceling Madigan.

16. The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago is investigating possible official corruption by state and local officials. This prompted the Legislature to pass an ethics reform measure to amend the Lobbyist Registration Act (SB 1639). It was signed into law in December. What’s your take on this and what more should be done?

The Lobbyist Registration Act was a step in the right direction but was very tone deaf. In the last few years we have seen the self dealing by Democrats exposed with a level disregard for Illinois taxpayers that to me is startling. We have three current State Senators indicted for corruption and tax evasion in the last 12 month with conspiracies of shakedowns in campaign cash to personal kickbacks for legislative favors. All of the instances were seemingly initiated by the legislators themselves, not the lobbyists involved. There should be an independent third party group (Edgar County Watchdogs among others) while including people from both parties to craft a bill where nobody from either party is happy. This way we know that it truly is a non biased, hard hitting but fair ethics reform bill that will protect the tax-payers not the politicians. Illinois needs real consequences for elected officials that misuse their offices. Period.

17. When people use the internet and wireless devices, companies collect data about us. Oftentimes, the information is sold to other companies, which can use it to track our movements or invade our privacy in other ways. When companies share this data, we also face a greater risk of identity theft. What should the Legislature do, if anything?

This is mostly a federal issue. However, the State of Illinois does have identity theft laws on the books that the Illinois Attorney General helps to implement regarding data breaches and privacy concerns. We need to look to our business community to help us design effective regulations on data and potential criminal activity as we move farthing into the information age.

18. The number of Illinois public high school graduates who enroll in out-of-state universities continues to climb. What can Illinois do to make its state universities more attractive to Illinois high school students?

We need to work with our Higher education community to learn what needs to be done to keep our best and brightest from leaving Illinois. I also believe that if we can improve communication between our K-12 school systems and higher education we could help improve our high school graduates’ access to Illinois institutions.

19. What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?

We have a lot of problems in Illinois right now, not to mention the COVID 19 pandemic. I don’t have an environmental agenda. I do have a jobs agenda. Illinois’ government needs to work on cutting red tape and regulation that has driven manufacturing out of the State. I want to work with business on protecting our natural environment here in Illinois, but with all that is going on, I’m not focused on anything specific.

20. What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.

Ronald Regan was born in Dixon, IL. His ability to appeal to the masses, work with both sides of the aisle and he got stuff done. He is a legendary figure to all who know his story and his achievements. I value his honesty, integrity, dedication to our republic and always fighting for the little guy. People often forget when they get into politics that we live in a Republic and their first obligation is to the people and not the big donors, he never forgot that and I never will.

21. What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?

I honestly do not spend a lot of time watching television. My favorite past-time is reading and my 2 favorite authors are Terry Mancour and Jim butcher. If I am not reading I am either playing with my 2 daughters or watching a historical documentary.