BLOOMINGTON — Jill Blair was happy as an administrator at Heartland Community College — until the state budget crisis put her career in jeopardy.
That prompted a career change, and now Blair is trying to do her part to bring stability back to the state, launching a campaign to run as a Democrat for the 88th Illinois House District seat now held by state Rep. Keith Sommer, R-Morton.
"I worked for a grant-funded program and saw the writing on the wall. I needed to make a change to ensure stability for my own future," Blair, now a communications analyst at Country Financial, told The Pantagraph. "That's not rare, to find folks who love education and would like to stay in the public sector, but the uncertainty we've experienced drove them away."
The district, which covers part of Bloomington, southwest as far as McLean and northwest as far as Washington, has been represented by Sommer since 1999.
"Most Illinoisans agree Illinois hasn't done right by us for decades. It's time for fresh ideas and fresh energy," said Blair, of Bloomington. "It's really not about Rep. Sommer. It's about the people of Illinois and the 88th District."
Sommer could not be reached for comment Friday.
Blair said she's not concerned about running as a Democrat in a traditionally Republican district.
"This isn't about picking a team and rooting for that team to win. This is about people's livelihoods," she said. "We need to remember we're all on the same team, and that's team Illinois."
In addition to a more stable budget, Blair hopes to promote a graduated income tax and more fair education funding.
"(The flat income tax) unfairly burdens the middle class and doesn't provide the funding we need. ... Despite its reputation as a tax-and-spend state, Illinois spends less per capita than 36 states," she said. "We've got to get away from property taxes to fund our schools. Illinois kids deserve good schools regardless of their ZIP code."