Decatur Democrat joins race for Mitchell’s state House seat

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Jen McMillin, 32, of Decatur, the Democratic candidate for the Illinois House seat being vacated by state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth.

DECATUR — Democrat Jen McMillin of Decatur, a first-time candidate, said Tuesday that she will run for the Illinois House seat being vacated by longtime state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth.

McMillin, 32, said she’s a candidate in the 101st House District, an area that includes all or parts of Champaign, Macon, DeWitt, Piatt and McLean counties.

There already are three Republican candidates for the seat: Piatt County Board Chairman Randy Keith, Todd Henricks of Cerro Gordo and Dan Caulkins of Decatur.

“I have always been a political junkie. However, the state of Illinois, with all of our financial troubles, we need people to step up and try and improve our state. We need a better economic position,” she said. “And the day that I decided to run was the day that both (state Rep.) Barbara Flynn Currie and (Attorney General) Lisa Madigan decided to retire.

“I knew that we couldn’t do this without leadership from strong women. And seeing those two female leaders prompted me to get into the race.”

McMillin said she has lived in Decatur for about 10 years after graduating from the University of Illinois at Springfield. She works at Lincoln College after having been employed at the Children’s Museum of Illinois and the Educational Coalition of Macon County.

McMillin said she caught the political bug while a student at Southwestern High School in Piasa.

“The person who got me involved back when I was in high school was a state senator named Evelyn Bowles. She and I talked when I was in high school. She helped with a speech I was working on for class, and she got me started in the political scene,” McMillin said.

Mrs. Bowles, a Madison County clerk for 20 years and a state senator for more than eight years, died in April 2016.

McMillin said that she had talked to Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, about running for the House seat and that he has been “very supportive.”

She said she wants to continue Manar’s work on education funding reform in Illinois.

“I want to continue to build on the gains we’ve made so far, and I want to make sure that we have more access to high quality education, especially in day care and preschools. And I am committed to improving access to health care in rural communities. Some people have to drive pretty far away to get to an emergency room or a doctor’s visit, and I want to find a solution for that.”

Mitchell had a Democratic opponent two years ago, Christine Law of Forsyth, who never campaigned for the seat. She finished with 25 percent of the vote.

“I knew her. We had worked together on some things,” McMillin said. “She was really fired up and wanted to make a change, but by the time she was on the ballot her family had moved to Arizona. That’s where she is now.”

McMillin said she is “pleasantly located in Decatur, and I have no plans on moving.”

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