This year will be a big one for politics in our nation; if you haven’t heard, this year we elect a president. It will be stressful, but there are plenty of state and local politics to distract from the mess of the national stage. Politics isn’t just elections, though, and we’ve put together a short list of things we’re thinking about statewide and locally.
As always, we implore you to check your voter registration status, and your sample ballots. The Illinois primaries are Tuesday, March 19th.
There are local races that will be on the ballot in the primaries, and of course in November. Most races appear to be uncontested. The coroner will be a contested race — candidates include Republican and current Chief Deputy Coroner Steve Thuney; Democrat and Deputy Coroner Laurie Brauer, and Democrat Sean Williams. State Senate District 52 is on the ballot — Paul Faraci was appointed to the seat following the death of Scott Bennett in December 2022. Faraci will face Republican Jeffrey Brownfield, who unsuccessfully ran for Champaign Schools Unit 4 school board last year.
Neither Champaign nor Urbana will have city council elections this year, so we do not anticipate much change at the city-level. Even so, we continue to pay attention to conversations about public safety, policing, and violence in our communities. Despite reports of less violence in 2023, these are perennial topics that are both incredibly important to address, and also easily sensationalized. Champaign has already approved additional license plate readers, and Urbana’s Chief of Police has expressed interest in acquiring them. We will also be following any miscommunications or issues that come from Unit 4 or Urbana District 116. Fingers crossed they are able to offer more stability to the students and families they serve.
The Illinois General Assembly is back in session this week. It’s unlikely that major changes to the status quo will happen during an election year. Most big-ticket and big-media topics, like the migrant crisis, disproportionately affect Chicago and Cook County. Could we see some sort of coordination between Chicago and places like Champaign-Urbana to find housing and opportunities for migrants?
As for legislative updates from last year, there are hundreds of laws that went into effect on January 1st, including an increase in minimum wage to $14 per hour. In our politics preview article last year, we noted that Governor JB Pritzker was making moves to ensure access to abortion in Illinois and limit access to assault weapons. Abortion in the state remains legal, with additional protections codified early last year; Illinois continues to see record numbers of patients from out of state. Pritzker also created a nonprofit to fight for abortion access across the nation. The assault weapons ban he signed into law last year was upheld by the Supreme Court in mid-December. In June of last year, the governor signed into a law a ban on book bans, which went into effect this year. Under this law, “libraries [may] acquire materials without external limitations.”
In another (relatively low-stakes) instance of “elections have consequences,” Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias has updated the drivers services website, and you’ll potentially be able to complete more drivers services tasks online. We’ll take it!
In terms of voting in 2024, we will elect a House Representative for IL-13 again. Incumbent Democrat Nikki Budzinski will face a Republican opponent in November. On the Republican side, there are two men running: Thomas Clatterbuck, a law student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Joshya Loyd, a West Point graduate from Virden. Neither of these candidates strike us as particularly well positioned to defeat an incumbent with Democratic party support. However, the Democratic lean in the district is relatively narrow, and November seems like a long way away. Anything can happen, so stay informed and make sure you’re registered to vote.
Illinois will almost certainly vote to re-elect President Joe Biden. Who will be his Republican opponent? Will this country vote to undermine democracy and democratic values? Will the Supreme Court offer rulings that do it for us? We’ll know soon enough. It’s safe to assume that here at Smile Politely we will indeed be publishing some hand-wringing pieces about the local implications of the state of our nation, but in the meantime, let’s turn our focus to regional and local matters.
The Editorial Board is Jessica Hammie, Louise Knight-Gibson, Julie McClure, Patrick Singer, and Mara Thacker.