Two candidates with ties to Bloomington-Normal’s higher education institutions are vying for a chance to represent downtown and the city’s west side on the McLean County Board.
The District 8 seat is currently held by Democrat Carlo Robustelli, who is not seeking re-election. Running to succeed him as Republican Jordan Baker and Democrat Lea Cline.
Cline, an associate professor of art history at Illinois State University, has built a lengthy volunteer service record since moving to Bloomington in 2012. She is currently chair of Bloomington’s Historic Preservation Commission and has been an election judge and polling coordinator for the Bloomington Election Commission.
“I believe I have gained the experience and knowledge necessary to serve in that (County Board) role effectively,” said Cline.
Baker is a recent graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University. He said he would prioritize responsiveness to his constituents if elected, including monthly town halls in the district.
On the campaign trail, Baker said he’s been troubled by how few people can name their local elected representatives.
“This is unacceptable and something that has to change,” Baker said.
Cline said her three main priorities if elected would be transparency, including sustaining online broadcasts of all County Board meetings; supporting the McLean County Nursing Home, including lobbying state policymakers to improve Medicaid reimbursement rates; and providing free and fair access to the polls. Cline said her work as an election judge gave her a firsthand view of voting rights.
“We need to make sure when polls are moved, when materials are made less accessible, that we compensate for that, that we find a way to make things as accessible as possible,” Cline said.
Baker said he would push county government to create a new competitive grant program for local entrepreneurs, especially low-income entrepreneurs. He said he’d also look for ways, as a County Board member, to work on policing reform so that all community members feel safe “when they’re driving, when they’re walking, or in their home.”
Baker said he’s a Republican primarily because of national politics and the party’s perceived emphasis on fiscal responsibility and government efficiency.
“Republicans are more proactively searching for that, searching for those options,” he said.
Cline said she’s a Democrat because it’s “deeply rooted in who she is,” as the child of two parents who met at a rally in Berkeley, Calif. Cline said “government is there to help support the community,” and that she’ll put “people over profits and education over mysticism.”
“I believe that people matter, and their feelings and their concerns matter,” Cline said. “There needs to be more of an attention on the lower-income, nonwhite parts of our community. We need to pay attention to areas of our community that are not receiving a whole of attention. Sometimes we have to make some sacrifices in terms of financial benefit if that means we can help more people.”
Cline defeated Democrat Nathan “Chiko” Russo in the March primary. Baker was unopposed in the primary election.
The Republican majority on the County Board shrunk from 15-5 to 13-7 after the 2018 election. For Democrats to win control in November, they’d have to protect two currently Democratic seats (District 8 and George Gordon’s seat in District 6) and also win four of five seats now held by Republicans.
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