The Libertarian Party of Greater Peoria is running a slate of at least eight candidates for state and county offices in November.
Party chairman Donny Henry said a legal decision by a judge in response to a lawsuit filed by the party to allow electronic petition signatures during the COVID-19 pandemic, moves back filing dates to July 20, and sets a lower signature threshold for petitions.
Traditionally, third-party candidates face higher barriers to getting ballot access than Democrats or Republicans under Illinois' election code. Henry said the ruling was a "game-changer" for getting Libertarian candidates on the ballot in the fall.
"We, as the Libertarian Party in Peoria, we looked around and we said, 'This is the opportunity we've been waiting for.' These great people decided they were going to set up and try to make liberty play in Peoria," Henry said.
That's created opportunities for candidates like Ken Allison, who is running as a Libertarian against state Rep. Keith Sommer, R-Morton, for the 88th House District that encompasses portions of Tazewell and McLean counties, including Morton, Washington, Mackinaw, and part of Bloomington.
"Maybe now, it's finally time to have an honest discussion about how we feel about the political duopoly that's really truly keeping us from any kind of measured reform," Allison said.
He said Sommer is unresponsive and nowhere to be found during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis. He said his own calls to Sommer for assistance have only led to a full voicemail inbox — leading him to post a prominent "Where's Keith?" billboard along Interstate 74 near Morton.
"We need leaders who are willing to walk a mile on broken glass for our people, our communities, our flocks, our families," Allison said. "We need leaders who place the needs of our fellow Illinoisans over their own political careers. Leaders who actually understand what it means to be a servant, and to serve."
Sommer was elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1999, making him one of the longest-tenured Republicans in the state.
Allison is a small business owner and military veteran who lives in the sliver of East Peoria included in the 88th District. He also serves on the East Peoria Community School District 309 board. Ultimately, he said it's up to leaders to make others feel comfortable and to be accessible.
Democrat Karla Bailey-Smith of Bloomington also is running against Sommer this fall.
To avoid petition challenges from either of the major parties, Henry said Libertarian candidates will aim to gather three times more signatures than the minimum required for their races.
Other Libertarian candidates announcing bids at a press conference Thursday at Mack's in downtown Peoria include:
- Joe Rusch--Peoria County Auditor
- K. Eric Shaffer--Peoria County Coroner
- Ann Agama--Peoria County Clerk
- Chris Buckely--Peoria County Board District 11
- Tom Inman--Peoria County Board District 17
- Kaden Nelms--Tazewell County Auditor
- Eric Stahl--Tazewell County Board President
Chad Grimm, a 2014 Libertarian gubernatorial candidate from Peoria, has set up an exploratory committee to potentially run for the 92nd House District seat currently held by Democratic State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth.
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