Keith Pekau

Keith Pekau

Pekau joins crowded Republican field in 6th Congressional District

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By Jeff Vorva

In what could be one of the most interesting and heated congressional races in the state in 2022, Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau announced Monday he is planning on running in the new 6th Congressional District.

He will be running as a Republican and, so far, will battle energy consultant Niki Conforti in the June primary. The winner of the June 28 primary will take on the Democratic survivor in November. Incumbent Congressmen Marie Newman and Casten are expected to duke it out for the Democratic nomination.

Pekau comes into the battle with some name recognition but in the coming months plans to improve that.

“I look back five years and my name recognition was a lot lower than my opponent then [longtime Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin], too,” he said. “And my name recognition now is a lot better than it was back then.

“It still may be lower than the opponents, currently, but it’s still a lot better than it was then.”

Pekau, 55, made a formal announcement at Alexander Equipment in Lisle and came back to Orland Park late Monday afternoon for a campaign kickoff event at Fox’s Pizza and Irish Pub.

After all of the redistricting that took place in the state – which Pekau and the Orland Park Village Board of Trustees vigorously opposed – the new 6th District had some appeal to him.

The district was carved out of six existing congressional districts and includes communities such as Orland Park, Palos Heights, Palos Park, Oak Lawn, Hickory Hills, Worth, Chicago Ridge, Palos Hills, Bridgeview, Bedford Park, Willow Springs, Countryside, and Hodgkins. Portions of Chicago’s Clearing and Garfield Ridge communities are also included in the new 6th District.

“The redistricting process is bad, but I will say that when you look at the 6th District makeup, relative to all of the other 16 districts in Illinois or even most districts in the country, it’s actually a pretty fair district,” he said. “You have similar communities. The other 16 are all over the place. But this one is pretty good, I believe.”

Should he win, he said he would not stay on as mayor.

“I will not try to do both,” he said. “Congress is a full-time job going back-and-forth and I think it would shortchange the mayor’s duties.”

During his tenure as mayor, Pekau brags of the lowest village crime rate in over a quarter-century. He co-founded the Chicago Southland Interstate Alliance, an I-80 corridor development group, and is on the board of the I-80 Coalition.

He is a decorated combat veteran and Air Force instructor. He was born and raised in Orland Park. He has a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Arizona State University and an M.B.A. from Duke University, as a Fuqua Scholar.

Jeannie Ives, a former member of the Illinois House of Representatives and 2018 candidate for governor, introduced and endorsed Pekau on Monday.

She ripped Newman and Casten and other Democrats for their spending.

“Politicians spent $6 trillion in 2020 and that wasn’t enough,” she said. “Now the Democrats have asked for another $6 trillion this year.

“Just on Friday, both Sean Casten and Marie Newman voted for a $1.75 trillion spending bill, after spending $1.9 trillion in March and another $1 trillion last month. And they still want more. They are wasting our money. This madness has to stop.”

She believes that getting new people elected, such as Pekau, will help stop that “madness.”

“Both Casten and Newman are among the most extreme of their party,” she said. “Keith may be one of the most experienced and well-rounded candidates to ever throw their hat in the ring for this office. I trust Keith. He is for letting us keep more of our money and getting rid of wasteful government.”

Also considering Republican campaigns in the 6th District are Rob Cruz, of Oak Lawn, who dropped a bid for the U.S. Senate in favor of a possible run for Congress. Cruz is a member of the Oak Lawn High School District 229 Board of Education; businessman Justin Burau; and John Ostman.

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