In what appears to be a first, Vermilion County has been split south of Interstate 74 in Illinois’ new congressional district map.
That means residents will be represented by two different members of Congress, most likely one Republican and one Democrat.
While Vermilion County has long been a Republican Party stronghold, local officials say they are fine with the new map, indicating they want to work with any representative, no matter their political party affiliation, to make sure residents and community assets are looked after.
Illinois Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker signed Illinois’ new congressional district map into law last month, formalizing political boundaries drawn to favor Democrats in next year’s midterm elections, when Republicans are positioned to win back control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The congressional map, approved in October by Democrats who control the Illinois Legislature, was designed to eliminate two Republican-held districts and make elections easier for Democratic candidates, even with the state losing one congressional seat due to population loss. Democrats said the new map reflected Illinois’ diversity by adding a second predominantly Latino district and maintaining three predominantly Black districts.
For Vermilion County voters, the northern part of the county, including Danville, Tilton to Westville, is now in the 2nd Congressional District. The rest of the southern part of the county remains in 15th District.
Due to the state’s declining population, Illinois will have only 17 congressional seats after the 2022 elections, one fewer than it currently has.
Due to most of the state’s population loss occurring in southern Illinois, the new congressional map combines what are currently the 12th and 15th Districts, held by Republican Reps. Mike Bost and Mary Miller, respectively, into a new 12th District that covers most of the southern one-third of the state.
Miller, however, has indicated she might run in the newly-drawn 15th District, which stretches from west-central Illinois eastward across the state, curling around the city of Champaign and stretching back west and south to an area just west of Collinsville.
Rodney Davis, a Republican from Taylorville, announced he’s running for re-election to Congress in the newly drawn 15th district, which includes his home in Taylorville and much of the district he currently represents. He is the only incumbent member of Congress who resides in this district following the redistricting process.
“My family and I are excited to announce that I am running for re-election to Congress,” Davis said in a press release. “I’ve been proud to fight hard for and work on behalf of central Illinois families in this district for many years, both as a member of Congress and as a staffer to my good friend and mentor, former Congressman John Shimkus.”
The new 15th district encompasses 35 counties across mid-Illinois, bordering Missouri, Iowa and Indiana.
Congresswoman Robin L. Kelly, a Democrat from Matteson, which is south of Chicago, was elected to serve the 2nd Congressional District in 2013. The 2nd congressional district now includes Danville and south to Westville. It extends north to include Kankakee to some southeast Chicago suburbs.
Danville Area Community College political science instructor Chuck Hantz, who has been teaching at DACC for 21 years, said he did a little research back to 1950.
“Up to that point, Vermilion County was not split in any way,” Hantz said about congressional districts, adding that he doubts there was any split in the county in the last 200 years.
Vermilion County was part of the state’s overall population decline, recording a 9% drop in the last 10 years to a population of 74,188 in 2020.
Hantz said for the majority of voters, this is a going to be a new experience for them being represented by an upstate Democrat. The remainder likely will continue to be represented by a downstate Republican.
If Kelly runs for reelection, that would be a new experience for her or whoever would be elected next year, too, he added.
Hantz said this will be a learning experience for the county and its representatives.
“I think we’ll get a pretty good sense of how (a 2nd district representative) views the importance of downstate,” he said.
One way will be in how a representative staffs the district.
Hantz said Danville has been blessed with a congressional office and coordinator in Danville the last 10 years. Hantz questions if there will still be a district office here.
He said only about 30 percent of Vermilion County votes Democratic in congressional elections. Those voters likely will be pleased with the change, he said.
Hantz also said with any representative, local officials have a desire to work with anyone to see progress on education, transportation, economic development and other issues.
With Illinois losing a congressional seat due to a slight population decline, it’s a continuing trend reflecting the diminishing strength of Illinois in general, Hantz also said.
Vermilion County Republican Chair Pat O’Shaughnessy said he doesn’t think life in Vermilion County will change much with the congressional district changes.
He said earlier proposed maps mostly tied together southern Illinois and kept things pretty much the same as they were. But in the final approved map, Danville is now tied all the way up to the south part of Lake Michigan, he said.
“It doesn’t matter. I think it won’t change Vermilion County’s outlook,” O’Shaughnessy said. “We have federal assets we need to make sure get protected.”
That includes the county’s biggest employer, the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System.
No matter who represents Vermilion County, the VA and other local assets are “very vital to Vermilion County and this region,” O’Shaughnessy said.
O’Shaughnessy said Shimkus, a veteran, was very supportive of the VA.
“I hope (Kelly) comes to visit us,” O’Shaughnessy added.
He’d like to see a bipartisan meeting set up.
“We look forward to meeting her, and protecting those vital assets we house here.” he said.
Attempts to reach Vermilion County Democratic Chair Diana Frazier Brenneman for comment were unsuccessful.
With the big infrastructure bill that was passed, officials are hopeful Vermilion County benefits from those funds. All Illinois Republicans, except for upstate Rep. Adam Kinzinger, voted against the recently passed infrastructure bill. Democrat Kelly voted for it.
O’Shaughnessy added that it was known Illinois was losing a congressional seat, and state politics would be involved with the redistricting map.
He said the county doesn’t call on congressional representatives that often.
“We’re pretty self-sufficient here,” O’Shaughnessy said, but added, Vermilion County residents will see what comes next.
via Commercial News
December 11, 2021 at 12:23PM