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Orland Park Mayor Pekau launches GOP Congress bid in same district with Democrats Casten, Newman in faceoff

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign the new congressional map drawn by state Democrats resulting in incumbent Reps. Newman and Casten running against each other in a Democratic primary.

Orland Park Mayor Pekau at Congress campaign announcement news conference on Monday with former GOP Congress nominee Jeanne Ives.
Orland Park Mayor Pekau at Congress campaign announcement news conference on Monday with former GOP Congress nominee Jeanne Ives.
Provided by Pekau campaign

WASHINGTON — Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau on Monday announced a GOP primary bid for the new 6th Congressional District, where Democratic incumbents Marie Newman and Sean Casten will face off in the June primary.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign the new congressional map drawn by state Democrats resulting in Newman and Casten pitted against each together, a byproduct of carving out a new 3rd Congressional District designed to elect a Hispanic Democrat to Congress.

Pekau, 55, increased his profile when he led a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic to Pritzker’s mask and vaccine mandates.

He has deep roots in Orland Park, attending elementary, junior high school and, for three years, Carl Sandburg High School in the southwest suburb before his family moved to Phoenix.

Pekau received his undergrad degree from Arizona State University in 1988 — his major was aerospace engineering — and then joined the Air Force. He was a weapons system instructor deploying in 1992, 1993 and 1998 to Saudi Arabia during Operations Desert Storm and Southern Watch.

After nine years, Pekau, by then a captain, left the Air Force, along the way picking up an MBA from Duke University.

He returned to Orland Park, where he has lived since with his family. He is now a partner in a management consulting company. He is a former owner of a landscaping company.

In 2017, Pekau beat then-incumbent Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin. He won a rematch last April, with 51.29% of the vote to McLaughlin’s 48.71%

Under the new map, Pekau estimated that two-thirds of Orland Park is in the 6th District.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times — and foreshadowing a campaign theme — he framed both Casten, from Downers Grove, and Newman, from LaGrange, as holding “radical left positions.”

Pekau was endorsed on Monday by Jeanne Ives, the 2020 6th District GOP nominee Casten defeated 52.82% to 45.43%.

Democrats, in control of redistricting in Illinois, designed the new 6th to be a Democratic district. Biden won the new 6th in 2020 with 10.8% of the vote.

Asked about recent House votes, Pekau said he would have voted against the infrastructure bill Biden signed into law last week.

He also would have not supported Biden’s “Build Back Better” climate change and social spending measure passed several days ago, facing an uncertain fate in the Senate.

Newman and Casten were champions of the infrastructure bill, and Pekau’s lack of support for it could emerge as an issue.

Newman said in a statement, “Though Mayor Pekau and I may be on different sides of the aisle, I have worked closely with the Village of Orland Park to secure funding for much needed local infrastructure improvements.”

Casten communications director Jacob Vurpillat said, “Pekau is anti-mask, anti-union, anti-vaccine and anti-science. In Congress, Sean is committed to protecting our environment, expanding access to quality health care, and creating economic opportunity for all.”

Last Wednesday, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., were the only two Republicans joining all Democrats in censuring Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., for posting a video of him murdering Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

Asked his position on censuring Gosar, Pekau said he has “not looked at that issue at all” and did not have a stand since it has “absolutely zero impact on my region.”

Former President Donald Trump is leading a campaign to punish Republicans such as Kinzinger, who is not running for another term.

Asked if Kinzinger should be punished because he voted to impeach Trump, is one of two Republicans on the Jan. 6 panel and is one of 13 in the House GOP who voted for the infrastructure bill, Pekau said he should not.

“As long as there is nothing done illegal and someone is voting their conscience, the citizens and electorate make that decision,” Pekau said.

Pekau is one of three Republicans in the primary so far, with political newcomers Niki Conforti, 58, an energy consultant from Glen Ellyn, and Justin Burau 35, a real estate broker from Winfield.

Winfield is in the new 3rd District. A candidate does not have to live in the district to run.

Burau told the Sun-Times he is in the process of deciding whether to remain a candidate in the 6th district or shift to the 3rd.

The new 6th sweeps in portions of the 19th, 14th, 23rd and 13th wards in Chicago and takes in a swath of suburbs from the tip of Tinley Park, to Villa Park, to Elmhurst.