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Political scientist: Midterm results reflect changing political colors in McLean County

People watching election results
Emily Bollinger
McLean County Democrats watch the election results during a campaign watch party Tuesday night at the Holiday Inn in Normal.

Democrats' strong showing in McLean County in Tuesday's election reflects a gradual shift in political allegiances over several decades, according to Illinois Wesleyan University political scientist Tari Renner.

“It still as a whole leans a little more Republican, so you might not say it’s totally purple but slightly pink. But in this particular midterm, it’s the best the Democrats have ever done,” said Renner, a former mayor of Bloomington.

McLean County helped elect one Democrat to the Illinois House and Senate and the U.S. House. Renner said Bloomington-Normal made the difference for an Illinois House seat between two Twin City candidates.

Renner noted Democrat Sharon Chung carried McLean County in the 91st House District in her narrow victory over Republican Scott Preston; she earned 60% of the vote in the home county for both.

Tari Renner headhshot
City of Bloomington
Tari Renner

“A healthy ISU turnout was certainly very helpful there, but it was about a 1,400-vote margin, so it was still comparatively close,” Renner said.

The newly-drawn 91st District includes Bloomington-Normal and parts of Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties.

Republicans Dan Caulkins, Dennis Tipsword and Bill Hauter also won Illinois House seats to represent rural parts of McLean County. Each ran unopposed in the midterm election.

Democrat Dave Koehler, who was reelected to a sixth termin the Illinois Senate, defeated Republican Desi Anderson, partly because of his success in the new part of the 46th Senate District. Koehler won 60% of the vote in McLean County, and 58% of the overall vote in the reshaped district that also includes parts of Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties.

Democrat Eric Sorensen fared better in McLean County (+19) over Republican Esther Joy King than in any of the 13 other counties in the C-shaped 17th Congressional District that stretches from Bloomington-Normal west to the Quad Cities and north of Rockford.

Renner said Sorensen's victory may reflect how Democrats exceeded expectations nationally in the midterm election, noting Democrats drew the district to help their party. But the absence of a national “red wave” helped Sorensen win a close race.

“The Republicans have gained something. They’ve certainly gained seats in the (U.S. House), not by anywhere near what people have thought and they may actually still get 51 Senate seats. We’ll see,” said Renner.

Voters also elected 10 Democratic McLean County Board membersfor the first time.

Renner, also a former county board member, said he hopes the Democrats improvement in the elections will give them greater influence in committee leadership.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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