Democrat Mike Smiddy, Hillsdale, is challenging State Rep. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, to represent newly redrawn Illinois House District 71. We believe Mr. Morthland has earned a return trip to Springfield. A farmer who teaches at Black Hawk College, he was elected in 2010. Mr. Smiddy works at East Moline Correctional Center and was an assistant to former Democrat U.S. Rep. Lane Evans for nine years. Both support Chicago to Quad-Cities Amtrak service and continued expansion of Western Illinois University-Quad-Cities. Mr. Smiddy would like to see the state adopt a graduated income tax. He opposes tax breaks for large corporations and appears to be counting on economic recovery, and closing corporate loopholes, to fix state finances. He also backs costly new projects without suggesting how to pay for them. Mr. Morthland cited as his top accomplishment ending the release of state Firearm Owner Identification card information. He believes Illinois cannot move forward until Michael Madigan is replaced as House speaker. (Mr. Smiddy would back the Chicago Democrat). Though a GOP House takeover is highly unlikely, there is value in keeping the well-liked Mr. Morthland in Springfield. He has demonstrated an ability to work across the aisle, while maintaining an independent voice, no easy task for a freshman in a GOP caucus dominated by suburban Chicago.We liked his suggestion that Illinois needs a downstate Republican caucus and hope he will work to create one if reelected. Both men oppose a plan to shift the cost of teacher pensions to local school districts backed by Chicago Democrat leaders. Mr. Morthland is willing to look at any good ideas for fixing the pension mess, including ending costly compounded cost of living pension increases and exploring defined contribution plans for future employees. He said Illinois can learn from what's worked in other states. Mr. Smiddy is an American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees member and his wife is a teacher. AFSCME has donated $117,000 to his campaign. He said unions are getting a bad rap. Employees have been doing their part while the state has underpaid or raided pension funds. His lone suggestion for addressing the issue is to bring all the players to the table to seek a compromise. We have found Mr. Morthland to be effective as a member of the minority party -- both on the Rock Island County Board and in Springfield. He appears to work well with others from the region. We congratulate both men for having run fair and clean campaigns. We suggest voters in the 71st District to return Mr. Morthland to Springfield.