With so many new members of the General ASsembly this spring, we thought we should take some time to introduce you to some of the new members.
When Sen. Paul Faraci (D-Champaign) took the oath of office at the Old State Capitol last week, it was the crescendo of an emotionally draining month.
On December 9, Sen. Scott Bennett, one of Faraci’s best friends, died unexpectedly. In the ensuing days, Faraci and his family focused on helping Bennett’s family through the tragedy.
“When this happened, all of our focus was to coalesce around Stacy and the kids,” he said. “Although we couldn’t, obviously, make her whole, we had to do everything we could to help her. Truthfully, the senate seat was the furthest thing from my mind.”
But the political jockeying had begun with a 30-day deadline to fill the seat and the new General Assembly set to take the oath January 11. It wasn’t until Stacy Bennett included Faraci on a list of candidates she and the late Senator had discussed as possible successors to the seat that he decided to vigorously seek the appointment.
Faraci, 57, is no stranger to politics. He currently serves as township assessor for the township that encompasses the City of Champaign after serving two terms on the Champaign City Council. He previously worked with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and as an adviser to State Treasurer Mike Frerichs. His mother-in-law, Debbie Halvorson, is a former Senate Majority Leader and member of Congress.
The 52nd district includes much of Champaign-Urbana, Danville, and Rantoul.
Bennett was known as one of the most influential moderate lawmakers in the Senate. Faraci didn’t lay out many specific policy goals but would say he would continue Bennett’s work.
Faraci said he’s tackling the appointment with one key motto: “Be like Bennett.”
But, politics beckons. Faraci has indicated he will run for the seat next year, but progressive Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana), who was passed over for the appointment, has made steps to formally launch a Senate campaign. It sets up a potentially divisive campaign next spring.
“That’s democracy. That’s the way the system was designed and I wholeheartedly support that,” he said. “Am I 100% ready for a primary? I don’t know if anyone is, but I’ll do my best. I don’t begrudge anyone that would want to get involved.”
At this point, Faraci doesn’t seem focused on legislative agendas or aspirations, but filling the role in the best way to honor his memory is the best he can hope for.
“Whatever I do, I’d better be making him proud. I’d better be making Stacy proud,” he said. “And for the folks that elected him to the office, I’d better be making them proud, as well. That’s my driving motivation.”
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January 21, 2023 at 11:05PM