Adam Niemerg gives an answer while fellow District 109 Representative candidates John Spencer and Andy Hires prepare to do the same during their respective turns at the Candidate Forum at Wabash Valley College Thursday night.

Those running for the Illinois 109th District Representative spot soon to be vacated by current state senate candidate Darren Bailey gave voters in the area surrounding Wabash County plenty to think about Thursday night.

Wabash Valley College hosted both the two Republican and single Democratic candidate for the Illinois House of Representatives 109th District in the third part of a series of legislative forums put on by the Edwards, Richland, Lawrence, Jasper, Wabash, Wayne, Effingham and White County Farm Bureaus in conjunction with the Illinois Eastern Community Colleges.

One question asked of the three candidates revolved around keeping the Illinois power grid strong.

Adam Niemerg, a COUNTRY Financial agent from Dieterich, stated that oil is the most important resource when talking about Illinois energy.

“We need to bring back oil and gas to our district,” said Niemerg. “We’ve got to get our oil and gas resources booming again, and that will bring our economy back in southern Illinois.”

The way to do that, in Niemerg’s estimation, is to reduce regulations imposed on the industry at the state level.

“We need to pull back on these outrageous regulations on oil and gas,” he said. “The cost just to drill is astronomical.

“Why do it?”

And Niemerg stated that he would cut some of that red tape if he were elected to office.

“I will fight and sponsor legislation to do that.”

Democratic Primary candidate and Clay County Democratic Party Chairman John Spencer, of Louisville, highlighted promoting wind and solar energy when asked how to keep Illinois’ power grid strong.

“They create jobs,” he said. “They create good jobs.”

Spencer did state that he was not against the use of fossil fuels, but emphasized that “the weather has changed” and that Illinois needed to promote greener energy sources to combat that change.

“I’m not against gas and oil,” he said. “But we have to reduce some of that down from gas and oil and put more of it into solar.”

For Richland County Sheriff Andy Hires, it’s coal that is the most vital component to maintaining the Illinois power grid.

“Coal is important to this district,” Hires stated. “There are a lot of individuals in this area that are working in coal mines or have worked in coal mines.

“It’s very important to the economy of this area.”

That’s not to say Hires feels as though coal is the only answer to the Illinois energy puzzle.

“”I’m not against having other ideas out there for wind, solar and natural gas,” he explained. “All of those happen to be viable options here in Illinois.

“But with coal, we have to find ways to role back regulations and give them the same playing field that these other industries have so that they can create new technology and find cleaner ways to burn coal.”

The sheriff also stated that relying too heavily on oil could lead to price hikes and negative consequences for the area.

“If we go strictly to natural gas, the prices are going to spike,” said Hires. “And we’re not going to be able to afford that.”

Each candidate was also asked what they felt would be the best way to address increasing property taxes in the state.

For the rest of the story, check out this week's Navigator.