There’s a long history of voters promoting city council members to the Statehouse. Republican State Rep. Dan Caulkins was a Decatur City Councilman. Rep. Carol Ammons, a Democrat, served on the Urbana City Council.
Normal Town Council member Chemberly Cummings wants to be next. She announced last month she plans to run for the 105th Illinois House District in 2020. That seat is currently held by longtime Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington.
In an interview for WGLT’s Sound Ideas, Cummings said she decided to run after realizing how much of an impact state government has on local communities. Earlier this year she was selected for the Edgar Fellows Program at the University of Illinois, an initiative designed by former Gov. Jim Edgar to inspire “respectful and collaborative leadership to address the state's major challenges.”
“I love seeing our community flourish. I really do care about this community, and I want to see how much more I can help and what more we can do to make it better,” Cummings said.
Cummings, 36, said she her big issues are education and economic development, both key to keeping people from leaving Illinois. Illinois lost an estimated 45,000 residents from 2017 to 2018. Outmigration has also cut into enrollment at Illinois colleges and universities.
Cummings said the new evidence-based funding formula for schools is a good first step toward creating a true “workforce pipeline.” Illinois must do more to create a diverse menu of job opportunities for young workers, who tend to bounce from job to job more than past generations, she said. Illinois communities can lure those workers and jobs by, for example, making themselves more walkable and bikeable, she said.
“We are seeing a shift in the types of jobs this next generation is looking for,” said Cummings, a technology analyst at State Farm Insurance.
Facing An Incumbent
Brady announced last week he’s seeking re-election for an 11th term. Brady will face a rematch against Republican David Paul Blumenshine in the March GOP primary. Brady beat Blumenshine by 50 percentage points in the 2018 primary.
“He’s tenured,” Cummings said of Brady. “He’s done a job that most people are very happy about. And I do not take anything from him. I just think there’s an opportunity for a fresh face and a new opportunity to hear a different perspective. I think our community can have a choice. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Brady defeated Democratic challenger Ben Webb, a high school teacher, in 2018. Brady won with 60% of the vote. Webb has not announced plans for another run.
How does Cummings plan to beat Brady? Listening to voters will be key, she said.
“I’m gonna go out there and do my best. I’m gonna campaign. I want people to give me the opportunity to share my heart, to share my thoughts. And I want to hear yours. We have to do this together,” Cummings said.
Cummings was elected to the Normal Town Council in 2017, putting her seat up for election again in 2021. Cummings said she plans to serve on the council “until I can’t anymore,” either because her term ends or she wins election to the Illinois House.
Does the House race mean she won’t run for re-election to the Town Council?
“Not necessarily, but it would be a little difficult to do,” she said.
The 105th district includes parts of Bloomington-Normal and much of eastern McLean County.
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