The 21st Show

Why The Political Ground In McLean County Might Be Shifting


From left, Republican state Sen. Jason Barickman, former party vice chair Connie Beard, outgoing chair Chuck Erickson, and Normal Town Council member Scott Preston. WGLT

Republicans in McLean County - which includes Bloomington-Normal and surrounding areas - are used to being in charge, and have had a strong voice in Illinois politics. But local Democrats are fired up for this year's midterm elections. And all the while, both parties are trying to answer the same question: What should it take to be a member of our party?

We talk a lot about politics on this show — Republicans, Democrats, independents. But what do those terms really mean?

You probably have some idea, and if you are a registered voter, you even identify as a member of that party. But in reality, there are a lot more shades of red and blue than those maps on cable news ever convey.

And party leaders know this and are struggling with how broadly they want to define themselves, especially after the last presidential election really shook things up on both sides. This has become very apparent in Bloomington and the McLean County region in Central Illinois. While historically dominated by Republicans, the next election has them facing a new set of challengers — Democrats energized by President Trump’s election and Libertarians on the local ballots for the first time. All this, plus, the local GOP chair and McLean County Board Member Chuck Erickson announced last month that he won’t seek another term.

As WGLT reporter and Digital Content Director Ryan Denham put it in his recent piece, with their opponents trying to make inroads it has Republicans asking a big question: Just how big should their metaphorical tent really be?

We also spoke with Kristin Walters, our Illinois Newsroom Engagement Strategist at Illinois Public Media. She told us about the new Illinois Newsroom in association with The 21st, and the new comment box on our website regarding community questions on state politics.


  • Ryan Denham, reporter and digital content director for WGLT in Bloomington-Normal
  • Kristin Walters, Illinois Newsroom Engagement Strategist

Story source: WILL