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Wallace, Sorensen join the field of Democrats hoping to follow Bustos in the Illinois 17th District

 Eric Sorensen / Litesa Wallace
Eric Sorensen / Litesa Wallace

The field of Democrats looking to follow U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos in the Illinois 17th Congressional District seat doubled Wednesday as former State Rep. Litesa Wallace and former television meteorologist Eric Sorensen announced their candidacies Wednesday.

“I understand the struggles and the issues that the families in our district face,” said Wallace, who represented Rockford in the Illinois General Assembly from 2014-19. “I want to make sure that we are addressing those economic issues, that we're maintaining and bringing good paying living-wage jobs and really make sure that we're fighting for the things that families need on a daily basis.”

A single mother, Wallace co-founded the Rockford Anti-Racism Network and serves as a fellow for the Diversifying Faculty in Higher Education Board. She has a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from Northern Illinois University.

“We definitely have to focus on making sure that people's constitutional rights are protected,” she said. “We still see attacks on voting rights, we see issues with women being able to access their reproductive health rights. And I would definitely be working to make sure that our economy is strong and families have what they need.”

Born in Rockford, Sorensen worked for WREX-TV in Rockford and later for WQAD-TV in Moline, where he now lives with his partner, Shawn. In a tweet, Sorensen said he wants to use his background in science to help solve problems.

On his campaign website, Sorensen says being a meteorologist “has always been about protecting our neighbors and our communities, values I learned from my family at an early age.”

Sorensen did not respond to requests for an interview.

The new Illinois 17th Congressional District cuts a swath through much of northern, central, and western Illinois. It snakes from Rockford down through the Quad Cities, and down Interstate 74 through Galesburg, Peoria, and Bloomington. It also stretches southwest to include Macomb.

“It's quite geographically diverse. It's also ethnically diverse, it's economically diverse,” Wallace said of the district. “For almost five years, I championed legislation in Illinois house that has impacted the entire Illinois population. What really plays the biggest role in any race is the ability to get out and connect to voters.

“Yes, it's a vast geographic district. But that shouldn't mean that you don't get in your car and drive through the district, go to meet-and-greets, knock on doors, being in the communities and hearing from the people.”

Wallace and Sorensen join Rockford alderman Jonathan Logemann and Rock Island County Board member Angie Nomoyle in seeking the Democratic nomination.

Esther Joy King, who lost to Bustos by just a few thousand votes last year, is running for the seat again as a Republican. Insurance agent Charlie Helmick of East Moline is also seeking the Republican nomination.

“I think what sets me apart is that I have a track record of getting things done and my ability to negotiate and bring about bipartisan policy and legislative measures,” said Wallace.

Copyright 2021 WCBU. To see more, visit WCBU.

Joe Deacon is a reporter at WCBU.
Tim Shelley is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.