Urbana Mayor, Unit 4 Board President, Among Those Seeking Frerichs Seat

Senator Mike Frerichs speaks at the Illinois Capitol November 19.

Illinois Sen. Michael Frerichs, D-Champaign, speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Illinois State Capitol Wednesday, Nov. 19.

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman,File)

Local Democrats have released the list of those vying to replace Champaign Senator Mike Frerichs.  

The 12 candidates will be interviewed for the 52nd district office in Champaign Wednesday.

When a legislator leaves his or her seat--in the case of death, resignation or winning a higher office--local party officials get to choose who finishes out the term.

For whoever's picked, It's a good opportunity to step up the ladder, without going through months of campaigning. A pool of a dozen people from Champaign and Vermillion counties have come forward wanting to finish out the remaining two years of Frerichs' term.

12 is more than a regular campaign starts out with, on both sides of the aisle. But since Frerichs is a Democrat, this is a contest only for that party.

Kent Redfield, longtime state government watcher and political scientist, said he's not surprised so many want the spot.

"..If there is not a clear-cut person who kind of clears the field," he said.  "And often when you're talking about a state senate seat, it will be a state representative that is already representing half the district."

The dozen wannabe senators will get to make their case Wednesday night in Champaign, and party officials will make their decision next week.

Al Klein, Chairman of the Champaign County Democrats, said he's not necessarily in any rush.

"The legislators are sworn in on the 14th and there is an organization session that it would be nice for our senator to be present for, although not critical," he said.

This will be the first major appointment Klein will make as the county's party chair.

Some of the more notable names seeking the Senate seat include Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing, who had been identified as a possible candidate by the News-Gazette in recent weeks, and Champaign School Board President Laurie Bonnett, who works as chief of staff for Frerichs, who leaves office next Monday when he's sworn in as Illinois Treasurer.

Another Champaign Unit 4 school board member, Jamar Brown, is also on the list.

Others identified in an e-mail sent out by Champaign County Democrats include Pius Weibel, a former Champaign County Board chair who was recently re-elected to the board, and Lynn Foster, who was the Vermilion County Clerk for 24 years before losing in a re-election bid in November.   

Robert Rasmus is Pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Urbana. 

Two others who have unsuccessfully run for the same state office are on that list.  Michael Langendorf pursued Illinois' 104th District  House seat in 2012, and Danville Alderman Michael Puhr pursued the seat in 2010.  Both ran against State Rep. Chad Hays (R-Catlin.)

The others are Scott Bennett, an Assistant State's Attorney in Champaign County and a former candidate for the Champaign County Board, Brent West, another former candidate for the Champaign County Board candidate who's running this spring for the Champaign Park District Board, Don Crist of Danville, the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board chairman, and Michael Olsta, who's identified as a University of Illinois student on LinkedIn.  

Story source: WILL