DECATUR — Being a Democrat in a strong Republican district can be a challenge, but Jen McMillin believes she has a message that can resonate across political parties.
The Decatur resident and political newcomer has thrown her name into the ring to replace outgoing state Rep. Bill Mitchell in the 101st House District.
“I think that my platform is a strong one for a lot of families in the 101st District,” McMillin said in a phone interview Tuesday. “They need someone to look out for them and someone willing to put in the hard work and spend the time to make sure that things happen in our district.
"And that is my strong suit; I have always been there to make sure that we can get to the end goal.”
McMillin, 32, is the annual giving officer at Lincoln College and previously worked at the Education Coalition of Macon County. She is the first Democrat to announce their candidacy for the district, which covers parts of Champaign, DeWitt, Macon, McLean and Piatt counties.
Mitchell, who has served in the House since 1999, announced Aug. 3 that he would not seek re-election in 2018.
Three Republicans have already announced their intent to run in next spring's primary election: Cerro Gordo School Board President Todd Henricks, former Decatur City Councilman Dan Caulkins and Piatt County Board Chairman Randy Keith.
McMillin said she is focused on issues such as improving public education, growing job opportunities and expanding access to healthcare in Central Illinois.
For education, she said more focus needs to be placed on early childhood education and preschool, as well as helping graduating students have the necessary skills for the next step in their lives. Regarding the job opportunities, she said she will push for innovation such as rural broadband expansion to bring people up to speed in the current economy.
She also said she would like to look over the state’s budget to see whether cuts could be made or money reallocated before any talk of additional taxes.
As a Democrat, McMillin said she knows her Republican challengers will attempt to link her to Michael Madigan of Chicago, the nation’s longest-serving House speaker and head of the Democratic Party of Illinois. She said she has no interest in serving anyone outside the 101st District, noting her support at this time consists of local party chairmen.
If elected, McMillin would not say whether she would vote for Madigan to continue serving as House speaker. Instead, she said she is open to placing term limits on General Assembly leadership posts.
“I appreciate Speaker Madigan and all the hard work, but I think we need to diffuse leadership,” she said.
McMillin said she is looking forward to the campaign and offering another choice for district voters.
“I’m ready to get to work for them, and I think there are a lot of families in Illinois who are looking for a change,” she said.