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McLean County labor helps elect union friends

Mike Matejka
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McLean County notched a rare Democratic victory in electing union-member Sharon Chung to represent the new 91st District. Chung is now the first Korean-American to serve in the State House and defeated Republican Normal Town Council member Scott Preston by 1,200 votes.

The McLean County board representatives tied, with 10 Democrats facing 10 Republicans.  Labor supported candidates fared well and the county board split could lead either to power-sharing or to a face-off.

State Senator David Koehler’s district now includes Bloomington-Normal and he won his City of Bloomington area by a 61 percent margin, 60 percent in Normal and the County.  Bloomington has a city election commission and the county clerk’s office tabulates Normal and the rural districts.  Koehler spent considerable time in McLean County, once the new district was announced last year.

Chung’s win showed the power of door-to-door outreach. Challenged in the primary, she spent the summer and fall knocking on over 10,000 doors.  Preston echoed the Illinois Republican Party talking points about crime and inflation. Chung is an American Federation of Musicians member who performs and teaches music.  The Illinois Democratic Party and Governor J.B. Pritzker ensured she had support, with a weekly mailing barrage that built her name recognition and defined her opponent. In Bloomington she won by a 60 percent margin and 59 percent margin in Normal and the county.  The new 91st District strings through Woodford and Tazewell counties to include East Peoria, Bartonville and areas south of Peoria.

McLean County has not sent a Democrat to Springfield since 1984.  Before that, each district had three representatives and Democrats would usually win one.

In the 17th Congressional District, narrowly drawn to take in urban Bloomington-Normal, Democrat Eric Sorensen won by 59 percent in the city and 58 percent in the county vote, predominately from Normal.

A 10-10 county board split raises interesting challenges, particularly for electing a chair.  As of 2018 Republicans controlled the board 15-5.  Democrats made gain in 2020 to bring it to 11-9. Board member Josh Barnett switched parties earlier this year, leaving the board 10-10. 

Laborers 362 member and county board member Jim Rogal told WGLT-FM radio that, "Going forward, it's going to be interesting to see the chess game that plays out, because there's nothing in county statute to address a tie on the county board for votes, for electing a chairman, for anything like that.” 

Labor supported candidates winning in county board races included Rogal, Krystle Able, Elizabeth Johnston, Beverly Bell, Jack Abraham, Lea Cline, Jeanne Biles, Val Laymon, Natalie Roseman-Mendoza and Illinois Education Association member Corey Beirne. 

A labor-supported school referendum for Unit 5 Schools was defeated.

Hometown favorite Dan Brady won McLean County in his failed run for Illinois Secretary of State, but otherwise vote totals for statewide offices reflected a rural-urban split. 

Bloomington went for Senator Tammy Duckworth by 54 percent, while her opponent Kathy Salvi had a 54 percent edge in the county. Governor J.B. Pritzker won the city by 55 percent, challenger Darren Bailey took the county by 53 percent.  With the combined votes, Duckworth won the county-wide total 31,606 to 31,118 for Salvi.  Pritzker won the county-wide total, 31,372 to 30,898.

In Bloomington 52 percent of registered voters participated, in the County and Normal, 60 percent.