Edgar County residents will have to get used to some new names in political circles.
The decision by state senator Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) and Congressman John Shimkus (R-15th District) to not seek re-election is opening the door for others to run for office.
Freshman legislator Darren Bailey (R-Louisville) has decided after less than a year in the Illinois House to go after the 55th Senate District seat being vacated by Righter. The 55th Senate District includes Grandview and Kansas townships in Edgar County.
“As a senator, I have a potential to make a bigger impact on the district,” said Bailey.
He explained the decision to run for the state senate was made after consulting with Righter about the differences – pro and con – between being a senator and a representative.
A Clay County farmer, Bailey stresses he is different from career politicians and has set a self-imposed 10-year term limit on his time in state office. He served 17 years on the North Clay School Board.
He entered state politics because he was concerned when the legislature passed a 32 percent tax increase in 2017 and while serving in the House he has voted against late-term abortions, the tax increase on motor fuel, the progressive income tax Constitutional amendment, the legalization of recreational marijuana and the $15 per hour minimum wage increase.
Another issue for him is a belief the state is headed for bankruptcy if the pension crisis is not resolved.
“I want to fight for opportunity in the state,” he said, adding his oldest grandchild will be a teenager when he reaches his 10-year limit and wants her to remain in Illinois rather than leaving for greener pastures.
Bailey is critical of the Democratic majority in the legislature but he is also dissatisfied with the Republican organization, noting there is no meaningful debate on the floor.
“Ninety percent of the people show up on the floor with their minds made up,” said Bailey. “It’s different when we meet in caucus – that’s where the fight is on. It’s where the leadership tells what they bargained for and how many votes they want.”
Bailey wants the Illinois Republican party to remain loyal to its values but he also wants more cooperation in the legislature and eschews the name-calling that occurs.
“I try to be relational. I talk to the other side,” he said
He has been tagged a member of the Eastern Bloc of legislators that has proposed among other things making Chicago a separate state. He said that effort is about getting attention and letting the majority of legislators from Cook and the Collar Counties know that Downstate is not happy.
Something else Bailey hopes to accomplish is getting the electorate fired up and willing to take responsibility for what happens in state government.
“For too long people have elected their representatives and forgot about them,” said Bailey. “People have to hold their elected representatives accountable.”
Mary Miller, of Oakland, has announced her candidacy for Shimkus’ seat in Congress. In a printed statement, Miller is described as a conservative Republican and closely aligns herself with President Donald Trump.
Both Bailey and Miller will appear on the Republican ballot for the March primary.