Local Democrats Feel Emboldened By Primary Turnout | WGLT

Local Democrats Feel Emboldened By Primary Turnout

Mar 21, 2018

The number of Democrats turning out for Tuesday's primary more than tripled over the number that voted in 2014.

McLean County Board member Erik Rankin said Democrats running for local and statewide office feel emboldened, but predicts a tough go for Republicans in November.

"They are dealing with one of the most unpopular presidents in the history, one of the most deeply unpopular governors in the country ... If I was a Republican, this is a really down year," Rankin said Wednesday.

"What has changed is people are really motivated to get involved and make change."

While overall turnout was lower than in 2014, around 46 percent of voters took a Democratic ballot. That's up from just 13.5 percent in 2014, the last gubernatorial primary year. (One reason for the increase: This year's primary saw a contested Democratic gubernatorial race, while the 2014 election did not.)

Put another way, 3,827 primary voters took a Democratic ballot in 2014. On Tuesday, that jumped to 13,056.

Rankin said Democrats "have been emboldened by race after race ...They really feel they have started to turn the tide from the massive Republican majorities (in local government and statehouses) across the country."

Locally, he said Democrats will be "very aggressive in engaging our different groups and knocking on doors, and raising funds, and providing an overall structure for our candidates."

He predicted success for Democrats running for county, state, and federal office.

Rankin is one of three people running to lead the McLean County Democratic Party. Longtime party chair John Penn is stepping down. Two other Democrats have said they would like to lead the party. They are current co-chair Dorothy Deany and progressive activist Patrick Cortesi.

McLean County Board member Carlo Robustelli, also a Democrat, credits the strong turnout by his party to the strength of its slate of candidates.

"Candidates and their campaigns drive enthusiasm. It is clear that our candidates were speaking directly to the issues people are concerned about," said Robustelli, who represents District 8 (Bloomington's west side) on the McLean County Board.

Robustelli supported Shayna Watchinski, a first-time candidate who challenged longtime Democratic incumbent Paul Segobiano for the other District 8 county board seat. Watchinski won Tuesday in a landslide.

"With really well organized campaigns and a message that was connecting with voters, we saw a tremendous outpouring of individuals who wanted to be part of this election, and I think that's great," Robustelli added.

Robustelli said he doesn't know if the county is on its way to becoming majority Democratic or even evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. However, he said he believes the county is experiencing a political "awakening," and local Democrats are more motivated than in the past to advocate for their causes.

"For a long time people were just passively participating in their democracy ... What has changed is people are really motivated to get involved and make change," Robustelli said.

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