SPRINGFIELD, Ill. —As the personal demons of the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor have been splashed on front pages across Illinois, his GOP counterpart has been described largely in throwaway phrases: a young self-financed unknown who won’t take any pay for the office.
Jason Plummer, the 27-year-old heir to R.P. Lumber of Edwardsville, said that’s fine for now, but he expects Republicans to have a strong shot at taking back the governor’s office in November.
Plummer led state Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine, the closest of his five rivals in Tuesday’s GOP primary, by about 4,700 votes but Murphy didn’t concede until Thursday afternoon.
On the Democratic side, lieutenant governor candidate Scott Lee Cohen has drawn the media spotlight after allegations surfaced that he threatened an ex-girlfriend with a knife, used anabolic steroids and verbally threatened his ex-wife in 2005.
Plummer’s victory has been largely ignored despite a promise that he will forgo any state salary until Illinois’ unemployment rate moves into single digits.
“People in Springfield have become the first in line for a paycheck and the first in line for pay raises,” he said. “We should be the last in line.”
Going without a state paycheck is a luxury the self-proclaimed entrepreneur can afford: Plummer poured about $1.3 million in loans from the lumber company and family members into his primary campaign.
The Plummer family began R.P. Lumber in 1977 and the company now operates more than 40 locations in Illinois and Missouri. Jason Plummer is the business’s vice president for corporate development.
Plummer doesn’t expect to continue that self-financed trend into the general election. Primaries are a different animal and party members are forced to make choices about who to support — or whether to support any candidate at all, he said.
Plummer touted his experience as a businessman on the campaign trail and stressed his conservative approach to financial and social policy.
His experience working for the family business colors most of Plummer’s suggestions about how to use the lieutenant governor’s office, which has few specified duties and has driven past occupants to resign out of boredom.
Plummer said the position has been “an underutilized asset,” and he would focus on lobbying companies to start or expand businesses in Illinois.
While Plummer savors his victory, the race for his running mate on the Republican ticket goes on. State Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale is trailing state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington by about 400 votes in the contest for the party’s gubernatorial nod but had not conceded as of Friday.
Both men have praised Plummer’s business experience and said it will be a valuable asset. Dillard called him “a great young man” on Friday and Brady said he and Plummer would be “a clean break from the politics of the past” at a party unity breakfast Wednesday.
Plummer said he has spoken to both men on the phone this week for updates on their plans.
“They both want to create a more business-friendly environment, address tax and regulatory issues, (are) against tax increases,” he said. “They know that we are on the brink of insolvency. I feel like my campaign themes are in sync with both of them.”