PEORIA — Longtime state Rep. Keith Sommer will face a challenger in next fall's election.
Jill Blair, a Bloomington Democrat, announced she planned to seek her party's nomination to challenge the Republican who has represented the district, which includes Washington and Morton as well as a chunk of McLean County, since 1999.
She said she's always been an engaged voter, but decided after last fall's presidential election that just voting isn't enough and greater civic participation is needed.
"I've always been very frustrated showing up in the ballot box and seeing unopposed elections," she said, arguing those lead to disengagement on the part of the citizenry. "... (Sommer has) been unopposed since 2008 (in the general election). I think the citizens of the 88th District deserve to have a choice."
Blair worked on the staff of Heartland Community College for about a dozen years, and has spent the last several years working as a communication analyst at Country Financial. She's a graduate of Illinois State University and has a master's degree from University of Illinois-Chicago.
In an interview ahead of her formal campaign announcement Thursday evening, Blair said that she intends to spend the next several months listening to concerns from members of the district, which includes urban, suburban and rural areas.
She also said she's particularly concerned about the long-term impacts of the state budget impasse.
"I think the lesson of the last two years really is we need a fair and humane approach to budgeting in this state," Blair said. "... The decisions that people in Springfield made based on partisan ideals hurt individuals, hurt families, hurt businesses, hurt farmers and social services."
Candidates have until the first Monday in December to circulate and then file their nominating petitions. The primary election in which political parties select their candidates for office is March 20, 2018. Sommer has not publicly made his re-election intentions known, but has a campaign fundraiser scheduled for Sept. 20.
Chris Kaergard can be reached at email@example.com or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.