BLOOMINGTON — One day after U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood officially opened a new district office in Bloomington, his Democratic challenger in the fall election accused him of playing politics with taxpayer dollars.

At a news conference Tuesday in Bloomington, Democratic congressional candidate Junius Rodriguez questioned the timing behind the Peoria Republican's decision to open the facility just as the election campaign is gearing up.

"When a politician makes this type of decision just 10 weeks before a contested election, it is hard to view it as anything more than a crass political ploy to score points using the taxpayer's dime," he said in a prepared statement.

Rodriguez labeled the move "politics as usual at its worst."

However, LaHood's congressional office vigorously disputed the claim.

"From the day he took office in September (2015), Darin has worked to fulfill his commitment to set up an office in Bloomington," spokesman J.D. Dalfonso said, noting that constituent service across the district is "the top priority" for the first-term lawmaker whose office just closed its 1,000th constituent service case.

LaHood's predecessor in office, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, did not operate a Bloomington office. LaHood indicated an interest in doing so during the course of his 2015 special election campaign to replace Schock.

It is LaHood's fourth district office, in addition to his Washington, D.C., office. His others are in Peoria, Springfield and Jacksonville.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, also represents part of the area and operates a constituent service office in Normal.

 

Chris Kaergard covers politics and government. He can be reached at ckaergard@pjstar.com or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.