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Democrat Blair Officially Kicks Off Run Against Rep. Sommer

Ryan Denham
Democrat Jill Blair after her campaign announcement Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in downtown Bloomington.

Democrat Jill Blair made it official Thursday, announcing her candidacy for the Illinois House’s 88th District, setting up state Rep. Keith Sommer’s first contested general election in a decade.

Blair’s formal campaign kickoff was held outside the McLean County Museum of History in downtown Bloomington. Arguing that “Springfield is broken,” Blair said her key issues will include more certainty for K-12 and higher education. Blair also supports a graduated, or progressive, income tax, a key part of moving toward a more “fair and humane approach to budgeting.”

Blair, of Bloomington, is a former Heartland Community College administrator who now works at Country Financial. She’s also been active in the McLean County League of Women Voters. GLT first reported her campaign plans last week.

Blair is one of several Democrats who’ve mounted challenges to incumbent Republicans in some unexpected races in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election in 2016. A slate of Democrats won positions in Normal Township last spring, for example, and Democrat Nikita Richards is challenging Republican McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael in 2018.

“After last November’s election, we were all pretty disappointed. We spent a couple of days, a couple of weeks, feeling down and depressed. But the silver lining in all of that has been, we’ve come out and connected. I’ve made friends and colleagues that I know that I’ll have for a lifetime. It’s really satisfying and encouraging.”

If elected, Blair said she’d focus on her constituents—not falling in line behind longtime Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, a Chicago Democrat.

“I’ve never met Mike Madigan. I don’t know Mike Madigan. I work for the people of the 88th District of Illinois, and that’s who I’m going to listen to. There are places we can come together. (Blair and Republicans) may not agree on everything, but I think our concerns are the same. We want a prosperous state. We want a place we can be proud of. And I want to fight for that.”

Sommer, of Morton, has served in the Illinois General Assembly since 1999. His last contested general election was in 2008 against Democrat Tom Shrier. Sommer won with 70.8 percent of the vote.

Blair would first need to win the March primary before facing Sommer in November, should the incumbent seek re-election. Chris Howick of Bloomington has also announced plans to run as a Libertarian candidate. Howick is vice chair of the McLean County Libertarian Party.

The 88th House District includes portions of south Bloomington, McLean, Danvers, and Stanford, stretching west all the way past Morton.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.