Former Champaign prosecutor seeking Bennett’s seat

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CHAMPAIGN — A former Champaign County prosecutor has entered his name into the pool of candidates for the vacancy resulting from the death of state Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign.

Matt Sullard, former Champaign County assistant state’s attorney, announced on New Year’s Eve his intent to fill the 52nd Illinois Senate District seat, which represents parts of Champaign and Vermilion counties.

His interest and experience with community safety and the justice system is what prompted Sullard, 34, to put his name in the ring, he said.

“I’ve seen the articles about names floating around — what I thought was missing was a background to talk about community safety from a position of working with law enforcement and working with the justice system, and working with the everyday citizen as well as victim and witness advocates,” Sullard said. “This seems like an opportunity to continue to work in the community and improve it.”

Sullard and his wife, Liz, who both grew up in Kansas, moved to Champaign in 2018 to settle down and start a family, he said.

He worked under Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz until mid-2022 and is now the associate director for Freedom of Information Act administration at the University of Illinois.

Sullard was named secretary of the Champaign County Democratic Party last summer. He has served as a precinct committeeman since 2020 and ran for the District 3 seat on Champaign City Council in 2021, losing to Daniel Iniguez.

Sullard decided to submit his name for the state Senate appointment at the encouragement of his family and friends, he said.

“I’ve been really impressed by the work the (Democratic Party) chairs have done to get this process together,” he said. “I thought it was very respectful of Senator Bennett and his family to allow appropriate grieving time — it wasn’t just a loss for the community, it was the loss of a husband and a father.”

The deadline to apply for the state Senate vacancy expired Sunday. Democratic Party leaders in Champaign and Vermilion counties are planning to host a public meeting Wednesday to discuss next steps for appointing Bennett’s successor.

On Dec. 22, Bennett’s widow, Stacy, was appointed to cast the final votes of his current term. Party leaders have until Jan. 9 to appoint someone to serve out the two-year term Bennett won on Nov. 8.

“It’s obviously a tragic situation the way it came about, but the Democratic Party has a great wealth of candidates to put forward that bring different pieces to the table,” Sullard said.

“I do think the chairs and committee advising are going to get this right, and the 52nd District of Champaign and Vermilion counties is going to be proud of the result.”

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January 3, 2023 at 05:50PM

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