CLINTON — Several possible replacements in the 101st Illinois House District have started to emerge after longtime Rep. Bill Mitchell announced Thursday that he will not seek re-election in 2018.
At least six people have been identified by area Republicans leaders as possible replacements for Mitchell, whose 20-year term in Central Illinois will end in January 2019. Several potential candidates were on-hand at Mitchell's press conference Thursday in Clinton, as they and others took turns thanking the Forsyth Republican for his service.
“I'm interested in running for this seat because we need to put taxpayers, families, and businesses first." said Joe Alexander, a Clinton resident who recently served as mid-state coordinator for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Dan Caulkins, a former Decatur city councilman, also was in attendance, and confirmed his interest in running for the seat.
“It’s a real opportunity to get involved,” Caulkins said.
Others who have reportedly expressed interest in the past to replace Mitchell include: Piatt County board Chairman Randy Keith, DeWitt County Republican Party Chairman Dustin Peterson, Cerro Gordo School Board President Todd Henricks and Decatur City Councilwoman Lisa Gregory.
Peterson said he was “exploring his options” when asked Thursday afternoon. Henricks said he has "serious interest" in running, but needed to discuss the matter further with his family.
Gregory and Keith both said they have not made a decision.
Mitchell's district includes parts of Champaign, DeWitt, Macon, McLean and Piatt counties.
Thursday's news conference offered Mitchell a chance to reflect upon his nearly 20 years of service in Springfield among friends and supporters.
"I can’t repay the people of Central Illinois what they’ve done for me, because they’ve allowed me to serve in a democratically elected body. For a citizen, there’s no greater honor," said Mitchell, who has served since 1999.
He said he announced the move now to give his potential successors plenty of time to start circulating petitions to get on the ballot.
Mitchell's decision comes a month after he and 10 other Republicans joined Democrats in the General Assembly to override a veto from Gov. Bruce Rauner and implement the first state budget in over two years. The budget included a permanent income tax increase, a measure that was unpopular with constituents and drew heated criticism for Mitchell on social media.
Mitchell said Thursday that he knew he had "let some people down" but did not regret his vote, saying he had a responsibility to help end the longest budget impasse in the nation's history.
"I regret I had to vote for it. I wasn’t just a closet liberal all those years," he said. "... I thought I had to do the responsible thing and I certainly disappointed a lot of my friends, and I’m sorry about that."
Asked if his decision not to run again was motivated by a particular factor, such as the state's budget situation, Mitchell said he had actually made up his mind last year that this would be his last term.
"(During the last election), I went to town meetings and told folks that 20 years is plenty of time," he said. "Someone else needs to take the reins."
In a statement, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin praised Mitchell's commitment to downstate Illinois and his work to keep the Clinton nuclear power plant open last year.