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State Rep. Keith Sommer to retire after redistricting; Rep. Bennett and Sen. Turner seek re-election

Keith Sommer speaks

With about six months left before the June 28 primary election, state lawmakers are firming up plans to run for office in newly drawn districts. Or in one case, not run.

Keith Sommer retires

State Rep. Keith Sommer said Wednesday he plans to retire after nearly a quarter century in the Illinois legislature. The Republican from Mackinaw said he will finish his 12th term in office. That term ends in January 2023.

Sommer represents mostly rural areas between Peoria and Bloomington-Normal in the 88th District that includes the communities of Carlock, Mackinaw, Morton and Washington. Sommer said in a news release it's time for him to "step away and encourage others who wish to represent these amazing communities."

Sommer said he has considered himself an advocate for small government and local control. He also pushed for adoptions and foster care by calling for reforms in the state Department of Children and Family Services.

Had he run for re-election, Sommer would have been redrawn into the 87th District.

Sally Turner runs in 44th Senate District

State Sen. Sally Turner has announced she will run to retain the seat she was appointed to when Bill Brady of Bloomington resigned.

Turner was a longtime Logan County clerk before the appointment. Her new 44th Senate District includes parts or all of 12 counties, including McLean, Tazewell, Piatt, and Dewitt.

The Republican from Beason said Wednesday she hopes to pass an ethics bill in the spring session that tweaks the massive energy policy law recently passed by the General Assembly. Turner said that bill contained rigorous reporting standards for companies doing business with the state in the wake of the Commonwealth Edison lobbying scandal. But Turner said there are no such disclosure standards for wind and solar companies, and she thinks the same rules should apply across all power-generating industries.

Turner also wants to change a measure that eliminated cash bond in Illinois. She said the list of offenses that qualify for pretrial release should be revised because too many alleged offenders are being released and then committing new crimes. The elimination of cash bail came from a push by Black Democratic lawmakers caucusing together and may be difficult to change. Turner said she believes some of those Chicago-centric lawmakers have experienced the same issues of repeat offenders she identified and that they may be willing to adjust the law.

Turner said she also will advocate for a bill to give money to cities and towns for storing body camera video footage. Turner said previous grant money was for body cams only. She said small towns such as Delavan in Tazewell County say they cannot afford to pay for the years of storage the body cam laws require.

Another bill on her spring legislative agenda seeks money to build more group homes for the Department of Children and Family Services. She said sometimes children have nowhere else to turn and have been sleeping in DCFS offices.

Tom Bennett running again in 106th House District

State Rep. Tom Bennett said he's running again even though his new 106th District looks much different than the previous one that took in a larger chunk of eastern McLean County.

Bennett said he is losing western and eastern portions of the district such as Eureka and Danville. The new borders also go further north and pick up Streator and part of Morris.

The Gibson City Republican has served in the Illinois House since 2015. He worked at State Farm in Bloomington for 20 years before that.

Bennett said agriculture remains a priority, but the change in the map means the energy sector is a legislative area he will focus on as well, and maintaining a broad portfolio of energy generation in Illinois.

"We have two nuclear power plants in the district and a third one just a block away. That's all important, too. The need for energy in the state of Illinois is not going to go down. It's going to go up," said Bennett.

"Education is key, no matter where we are in Illinois," he added. We have to do a better job of that. Of course, COVID has impacted our kids in so many ways."

Bennett said many of his bills have always come from issues raised by constituents and that won't change in the new district.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.