Barickman's soon-to-be vacant Senate seat already drawing interest
Central Illinois Republican party leaders say they expect a lot of interest in the appointment to the soon-to-be vacant 53rd Senate District seat that Jason Barickman will resign on Jan. 10, when his current term expires.
There's already one announced candidate to replace Barickman, who announced his retirement this week, and two others are exploring the possibility. State Rep. Tom Bennett of Gibson City said he already represents about half the 13-county district. There are two state House districts within each Senate district and Bennett has one of those, although redistricting has changed the territory Bennett serves. Bennett has been a state lawmaker for eight years.
"Working with a number of folks to develop a good relationship and trust and also my knowledge of government processes just helps me have a better background, so I am able to hit the ground running," said Bennett.
Among the other potential candidates is Normal Town Council member Scott Preston, who lost a tight race Nov. 8 for state representative in the 91st House District. He said is is considering whether to try for the Senate job.
"The counties of the 91st House District has a portion of, I believe, (of) about a third of all the counties that the 53rd Senate District picks up as well," said Preston. "There are a lot of conversations to be had with a lot people in the mix between now and the point in time where a decision will ultimately end up being made. We'll see where it goes."
State Rep. Dan Brady of Bloomington has shown interest, too. Brady has had a long career in state government and just lost a statewide race for Secretary of State. Brady said he's considering his options.
"Being that it is a redistricting year, there may be aspects of the appointment process that normally may not be there. So, there is some research to be done in that particular area," he said.
What Brady is talking about is whether he can be a candidate or not. He doesn't live in the 53rd district. Normally, an appointee must have lived in the district for two years to get the job. But in redistricting years, candidates can run if they live in part of the old district before the legislative remap that happens every decade. If so, the candidate can move into the district after winning the office.
A spokesperson for the State Board of Elections said that will require more research, because technically, the redistricting election already happened last month. It's possible the usual rules apply and Brady would be out.
If he can run, though, Brady is intrigued by the potential opportunity.
"Some of the geographic territory is not new to me and the people of that district. But more than anything else, has always been my drive for constituent service for a vote for the residents of that particular senatorial district," said Brady.
The 53rd district stretches from the Peoria area to the Indiana state line and is deep red, so much so that Barickman did not have a Democratic opponent last month. Bennett said the district has more variety than you might think.
"The southern part of the district is more focused on agriculture and small business. Of course, education is always important. To the north of the new district, you have nuclear power plants," said Bennett.
The Republican County party chairs will pick the person to replace Barickman. They each have a weighted vote based on Republican votes cast last month in the Senate race. That means Livingston, Iroquois, McLean, Woodford, Grundy, and Tazewell counties have the lions' share of the weighted vote in the selection process. And it takes support of some combination of four or five of the largest counties to win.
- Livingston 15.9%
- Iroquois 13.5%
- McLean 13.4%
- Woodford 12.3%
- Grundy 11.5%
- Tazewell 9.4%
- LaSalle 8.8%
- Ford 5.9%
- Marshall 5.1%
- Putnam 3%
- Peoria .6%
- Bureau .4%
- Will .4%
Bennett's early announcement could discourage some potential office seekers from getting into the race. But Preston said the county party chairs will be thorough.
"Anybody who is interested and anybody who wants to be part of the process has time to do so, and has time to be in the mix," said Preston.
"I suspect there will be a lot of people who will offer themselves up as possibilities. It will probably take some time. When I was part of the process when Sen. (Bill) Brady stepped down and we chose Sally Turner to take his place, there were several meetings over a period of a few weeks because we wanted to make sure we were doing it correctly and to assure fair access by everyone," said Connie Beard, McLean County Republican Party chair.
The appointee will do the job for two years, until the next election. Barickman's new term in office would have been four years under the legislative map that staggers the terms of senators to have some running in each two-year election cycle.
According to the State Board of Elections, the 53rd district seat will appear on the ballot in 2024 (to complete the four-year term), in 2026 (four years) and 2030 (two years). All state Senate districts will be on the ballot in 2032, another redistricting year.