Don Castella is quick to admit that when he considers the possibility of being elected as the 30th District senator on Nov. 6, he's not interested in being a career politician.
"I'm not here to make everybody happy—I'm here to do what needs to be done," said Castella, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Terry Link. "For me, it's not about being somebody—it's about doing something. We need hard-nosed people there that are willing to make unpopular decisions, and I'm not afraid of that at all."
He has spent the past months knocking on doors, visiting restaurants and going to train stations, all in an effort to meet prospective voters and tell them what he's all about.
"It's generally good, but I'm not real well-known," said Castella, a retired data communications engineer. His previous political experience consists of serving as the chairman of the Vernon Township Republican Central Committee from 2006-12.
"I make no claims about wining this thing. All I can say is that we've tried our best," said Castella.
In his interactions with prospective voters, Castella said he has stressed the need for major reforms in Illinois—particularly in the state budget and pension system.
"We need some adults there that are actually going to do the difficult things that need to be done. We have to, pretty much, have everything on the table (in terms of cutting spending and addressing the pension situation)," he said. "I think we have to take a very serious look at it."
"We've got to take a really critical look at the functions of government and see what we really need to do and stop trying to be all things to all people," said Castella.
Castella said Illinois has to be able to compete with other states when it comes to businesses and jobs. He said too many people - an estimated 1 million - have "voted with their feet and left the state" due to job opportunities elsewhere or their companies moving to another state.
The state's pension situation, Castella said, is "a serious thing." He said Illinois' unfunded pension liability is higher than that of California and New York combined. Pension reform will be one of his first goals if he is elected to office.
"We need to see substantive progress on pension reform," said Castella. "We need problem-solvers in there. We need people who are businessmen who have had to deal with difficult situations."
Castella said he is one of those problem-solvers.
"You've got to be realistic. I'm not afraid of being realistic," said Castella. "It's pretty simple. We need to bring these issues up. Whether there's a change of leadership in the General Assembly or not, these issues need to be brought before the public. They need to be made aware of them."
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