Smile Politely

The reasons we’re voting for Democrats this election

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Jessica Hammie

If you’ve spent more than a minute reading Smile Politely, you already know that we value progressive and inclusive ideas from a diversity of voices. Though the magazine as a whole isn’t necessarily in the business of endorsing individual candidates, as an Editorial Board, we sit just outside of the normal editorial processes of the day-to-day. As such, this year, we’re endorsing individual candidates. It’s our opinion, after all, and this is the Opinion section. 

The TL;DR: We’re voting for Democrats. That’s it. 

For some of our more nuanced reasoning, continue reading. We’ve highlighted some races we’re paying extra attention to. For an excellent resource on candidates and races relevant to Champaign County, please review the Champaign County Voters Alliance Guide.



Rodney Davis has finally been unseated. While we are a little sad we couldn’t do it with our votes, we will take the opportunity to vote in a Democrat to our newly redrawn House of Representatives District. 

Nikki Budzinski has our vote. The Peoria native and University of Illinois grad has years of experience working in the Democratic establishment. She likes to have Dairy Queen after dinner and wants to make things better for working families. She is “100% pro-choice,” believes in climate change, and wants to “restore and modernize the Voting Rights Act.” Is she ultra-progressive? No. This district will not elect a democratic socialist. This year is probably the best chance we’ve had to elect a Democrat to the House, and we will enthusiastically send Budzinski to Washington. 

Her opponent, Regan Deering, is anti-choice, pro-gun, and seems to hold erroneous ideas about voter fraud. We cannot give Republicans at the federal level any more power to continue wreaking havoc on the rights of women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and other historically excluded and marginalized groups. 


Republican candidate Darren Bailey is not qualified to lead the State of Illinois

Incumbent governor JB Pritzker has surprised us with what we think has been a pretty good response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all things considered, and has stepped up for asylum seekers and reproductive rights, as other governors swing hard right on these issues. He has our vote next month. 

IL State Assembly, District 104

Democrat Cynthia Cunningham is running against incumbent Republican Mike Marron, in a rematch of the 2020 and 2018 midterm elections. Marron edged out Cunningham in both those races.

Marron’s voting record is…troubling, to say the least. He does not support reproductive rights.  He voted against expanding protection for LGBTQ seniors and expanding renewable energy in the state. He doesn’t want to ban ghost guns. He didn’t even bother to vote on a bill to prohibit puppy mills in Illinois (and yes, he was in session for the other votes that day). 

We will, instead, be voting for Cunningham, who says she will: 

  • Support the rights of women

  • Work to eliminate grocery taxes so that food can be more affordable for working families

  • Invest in vocational training programs.


County Board

The Champaign County Board, while offering great fodder for a whole lot of nonsense, is a critical component of local governance. There is a democratic majority on the current board, which is in jeopardy this election. 

Redistricting after the 2020 Census has left a few districts contested in ways they have not been in the past. Every single board seat is on the ballot (there are two per district). Some races are uncontested (Districts 6, 7, 8, 9). We’re watching the races in Districts 4, 5, 10, and 11. We will be voting for the Democratic candidates in those districts; you can vote for two candidates in each district race.

In Districts 4 and 5, the races should be close, with perhaps a slight Democratic advantage. We support Elizabeth Hanauer-Friedman and Jenny Lokshin in District 4. In District 5, our votes are with Bethany Vanichtheeranont and Leah Taylor. Districts 10 and 11 have a stronger Democratic advantage. Our support is with Jilmala Rogers and Christopher Stohr (District 10) and Lorraine Cowart and Wayne Williams (District 11). (Perhaps this is obvious, but it bears repeating: Each member of the Editorial Board is only voting in their own, individual district.)

It’s important that the democratic majority remains, as the board is responsible for allocating much of the American Rescue Plan Act money (ARPA). This means funding programs that actually need funding, programs that can make Champaign County a better place for the most vulnerable who live here. This process is already underway, and should Republicans gain the majority on the board, all of that hard work and progress could be lost. 

Champaign County Clerk 

Incumbent Democrat Aaron Ammons is being challenged by 2020 election denier, Republican Terrence Stuber.  

Election denial is absolutely disqualifying for a County Clerk candidate who oversees elections. 

We will be voting for Aaron Ammons. 

Sixth Circuit Judge 

Judge races seem to be the least transparent ones on the ballot. They are partisan, but there are no voting records. As a society, we are meant to believe that judges are neutral arbiters of truth and justice — that is clearly not the case. 

In Illinois, potential judges run in partisan elections for a six-year term. After that term is complete, they can run in an uncontested, non-partisan retention election. That result is taken into consideration for their continued appointment. 

The Sixth Circuit comprises Champaign, Dewitt, Douglass, Macon, Moultrie, and Piatt Counties. For this Sixth Circuit election, Republican Sam Limentato is running against Democrat Chad Beckett. Limentato was appointed to the position after the previous occupant retired. This gives him an advantage in this general election. 

Limentato is a graduate of Oral Roberts University and the University of Illinois College of Law. He is currently the Presiding Judge of the Family Law Division in Champaign County in his role as a Sixth Circuit Judge. In his questionnaire with the Champaign County Voters Alliance, Limentato makes no mention of his values or beliefs, but instead touts his record: been on the bench for two years already; none of his cases have been overturned on appeal; he considers probable cause for arrest warrants at all hours of day and night.  

While Limentato may be qualified to serve, as we have noted before, it’s unnerving for any candidate to be on the ballot with an R next to their name while the party is still so closely aligned with Trumpism. In this case it’s doubly unnerving, given the GOP’s current positions on issues relevant to family law (protections for gun owners and not women, for instance). As we have all learned the hard way, judges are not neutral. Do we think that he is a conspiracist making egregious rulings? No. But with little information about what he values beyond a well-organized campaign, we cannot vote for him. 

Beckett is a U of I grad (both undergrad and his J.D.) and currently practices law in Champaign. In his questionnaire with the Champaign County Voters Alliance, Beckett said: 

I am proud to support protecting election integrity and expanding opportunities for citizens to vote. I support law enforcement and I believe they should have the resources needed to properly do their jobs. While I am a practicing Catholic, I support a woman’s right to control her body. I believe that people of color in our society have endured hundreds of years of oppression and that we as a nation continue to have much work to do to correct that inequity. I believe climate change is real and that moon-shot level mitigation efforts will be needed to ensure our children’s future here and elsewhere in the world.

We appreciate his forwardness about what he values as a person because those values and life experience absolutely inform his approach to the people who will come before him in a courtroom. He has our vote. 

Early voting has begun in Champaign County. You can find your sample ballot and polling location here. Election day is Tuesday, November 8th. Please take the time to educate yourself on the candidates and races and vote (even if you don’t agree with us). 

The Editorial Board is Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, Trude Namara, Mara Thacker, and Patrick Singer. 

Top image by Jessica Hammie. 

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