In just a few weeks, Mike Frerichs, who represents me in the Illinois State Senate, will be sworn in as the new Illinois Treasurer. This will result in a vacancy in the 52nd Legislative District of Illinois, which is a microcosm of the state and includes parts of Champaign and Vermilion Counties, including the cities of Champaign, Urbana, and Danville.
Three Democrats have publicly acknowledged that they are seeking the state senate appointment:
- Danville Alderman Michael Puhr
- Former Champaign County Board Chairman C. Pius Weibel
- Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing
Additionally, several other Democrats, none of which have been publicly named by anyone, are seeking the appointment as well.
The fact that Michael Puhr is considering a state senate appointment isn’t surprising, as he ran in the 104th Representative District (areas of the 52nd Legislative District outside of the heavily-Democratic areas of Champaign and Urbana) in 2010, losing to far-right Republican candidate Chad Hays in an open-seat race. However, during his state house campaign, Puhr campaigned as an socially conservative Democrat, opposing abortion and gun control. I remember seeing newspaper ads paid for by Puhr’s state house campaign which touted Puhr as a “pro-life” and “pro-2nd Amendment” candidate, indicating that Puhr is opposed to the idea of women having the right to make their own reproductive health care decisions and is opposed to most, if not all, forms of gun control designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and abusers. While Puhr’s socially conservative views would probably be necessary for a Republican-leaning state house district to be won by a Democrat, Puhr is seeking an appointment to a seat in a state senate district that is a microcosm of a Democratic-leaning state where it is very difficult for politicians who publicly oppose women’s rights to get elected, in fact, if Puhr were to be appointed to the state senate, he’d probably lose a competitive primary once the seat comes up for election in 2016.
The only other Democrat who is publicly seeking the state senate appointment that I know quite a bit about is Laurel Prussing. Prussing, who is currently the Mayor of Urbana, the second-largest city in the district, has been a political figure in East Central Illinois for over four decades. Prussing has publicly stated that she wants to eliminate property tax exemptions on at least some non-profit hospitals in Illinois, such as Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. I like this idea, since, given how much money hospitals make (even many non-profit hospitals have large cash reserves), hospitals like Carle are effectively moochers since they receive corporate welfare (in the form of a property tax break) from the state.
I know virtually nothing about C. Pius Wiebel, as I’m not all that familiar with Champaign County politics.
The Champaign County and Vermilion County Democratic Party chairmen should appoint someone who will represent the people of East Central Illinois well to serve the last two years of Mike Frerichs’s term in the Illinois Senate. Hopefully, that isn’t a supporter of the Bruce Rauner-Mike Madigan War on Women like Michael Puhr.