SPRINGFIELD — Gibson City native Scott Bennett had planned to be in Springfield last week to watch his uncle, Tom Bennett of Gibson City, being sworn in as the new state representative for the 106th Illinois House District.
Instead, the younger Bennett ended up at an inauguration of his own, after he was selected Jan. 12 from a pool of 12 to replace Mike Frerichs as the state senator for the 52nd District that covers portions of Champaign and Vermilion counties.
“It’s been a wild transition,” said Scott Bennett, who received an email at 2 or 3 a.m. Monday with the news of his selection.
A felony prosecutor in the Champaign County state’s attorney’s office, he was in court that morning at 9 a.m. At 10 a.m., he went to another courtroom and took the oath of office.
“It was short notice, but people came out,” said Scott Bennett of the police officers, judges, friends and family members who came to watch his swearing in.
They came to see Tom Bennett take his oath of office, too. A group of 86 people from all across the 106th district joined him on Wednesday at his inauguration at the University of Illinois-Springfield. At the same time, his nephew was at the Capitol, at the Senate’s inauguration.
Outside the Senate chambers, the two met briefly Wednesday afternoon to congratulate each other. The conversation naturally turned to politics and other family members joked there may be interesting days ahead.
You see, Scott Bennett, 37, of Champaign is a Democrat. His uncle is a Republican.
“I’m really looking forward to family dinners,” said Tom’s brother and Scott’s uncle, Doug Bennett, as he watched the two Wednesday.
The pair has a long history of discussing politics and religion at those family get-togethers.
“It’s not debate; it’s just talk,” said Doug Bennett.
Tom Bennett said the discussions never get heated. “We share insights,” he said, adding, “It’s just fun to get that perspective.”
Scott Bennett agreed the discussions have always been civil. “We have a nice way of discussing the issues,” he said.
As state office holders, their differences have already become evident.
Tom Bennett’s first vote in the House was for Republican Jim Durkin as house speaker. But longtime speaker, Democrat Michael Madigan, was re-elected.
Scott Bennett was on the majority side in his first vote — to elect John J. Cullerton as Senate president.
They did have one thing in common — both were chosen to have a special role in the ceremonies. Tom was chosen to walk Madigan to the podium to be sworn in as speaker. Scott was selected to escort the Illinois Supreme Court justices into the senate chambers.
The pair is excited to be working together and hopes their respective parties can discuss the issues and work together to get things done.
“There are huge problems,” Scott Bennett said. “If the solution was easy, we would have done it. It’s going to take give and take.”