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State representatives running again but in newly drawn districts

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Rich Egger
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State Representatives Norine Hammond and Dan Swanson

Two of west central Illinois’ state representatives are running for re-election, though their districts will look a bit different this time around.

The newly-drawn district Republican Norine Hammond of Macomb is running in takes in all or parts of 12 counties: Adams, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Knox, Mason, McDonough, Mercer, Rock Island, Schuyler, Tazewell, and Warren.

Republican Dan Swanson of Alpha is running in a newly drawn district that includes all or parts of 6 counties: Henry, Knox, McDonough, Mercer, Rock Island, and Warren.

Hammond running for a seventh term

The district Hammond hopes to represents includes very little of her hometown of Macomb - just the area south of Grant Street. That means Western Illinois University is not in the district, though Hammond said she will remain involved in higher education issues if she’s re-elected.

“In 12 counties, you’re going to have a number of community colleges that you continue to represent. That’s a marriage between a community college and a four-year that’s natural. And so I think it’s very important to stay in touch with and committed to higher education issues,” she said.

Hammond currently serves on the house Higher Education Appropriations committee.

She said she is also concerned about long-term care for senior citizens.

“One of the issues we’re looking at right now is staffing ratios and keeping our seniors safe and making sure that we have facilities that if they don’t have the staff to take care of them, then they’re not admitting more,” she said.

Hammond said agriculture-related issues will also be a priority because the district includes quite a bit of farmland.

Norine Hammond-Jan 2022.jpg
Rich Egger
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State Representative Norine Hammond announced her reelection campaign in several communities, including this stop in Macomb.

Hammond said she needs to know more about the proposed carbon capture pipeline that would run through parts of this region before deciding whether she could support it.

“Do I think that this is the end-all, be-all? No, but I think it’s one of the tools in our toolbox and it can be terribly important,” she said.

She said it will be up to the Illinois Commerce Commission to decide whether to grant a permit for the project.

Hammond said her number one reason for running again is her passion for this part of the state.

“We’ve done a good job over the years of being responsive to our constituents and navigating them through a lot of hurdles with state government. It’s a challenge and I enjoy that challenge. I look forward to continuing in that,” Hammond said.

Swanson running for a fourth term

Most of Macomb is in the district Swanson hopes to represent. He did not previously represent the community in the legislature, but said he is familiar with Macomb because he graduated from WIU through the Board of Governors degree program.

He said he plans to spend a day on campus soon to meet with various leaders and hear what they have to say.

“Whether it’s in the education of our teachers, whether it’s in the police or whether it’s in military science or just science in general or some of the other departments in law enforcement. Some of those departments, I’m going to meet with those directors and see what we can do to possibly help them in the future,” he said, adding he has met WIU President Guiyou Huang many times and thinks Dr. Huang is “going in the right direction.”

Swanson said he hopes to be appointed to the House’s Higher Education committee. He said he would “absolutely” like to see more funding for higher education, though he is not sure where the money might come from.

Dan Swanson-Jan 2022-01.jpg
Rich Egger
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State Representative Dan Swanson visited the TSPR studios to talk about his reelection campaign.

Swanson is also interested in K-12 education; he’s a former school board member in the AlWood district.

He said he is proposing a law that would require school districts to put textbooks on display for 30 days to give the public time to come in and review them.

“I think it provides transparency both for those boards of education, for that school district, and also for those parents who want to see what’s being taught in our schools,” he said.

Swanson is a military veteran. He said he served more than 23 years in the Illinois Army National Guard, including 20 on active duty. He then volunteered out of retirement and served in Iraq for a year, and later served three years at the Rock Island Arsenal.

Swanson believes his time in the military has helped make him a better legislator. He said in the military he learned to a take a long-term view of actions and their possible consequences, something he said the legislature should have done last year before approving a police reform bill.

“We’ve seen so many of our law enforcement officers retire early as a consequence of that legislation. I don’t think that was the intended consequences but that’s certainly what the outcome has been,” Swanson said.

He also believes the bill’s “no bail” provision has allowed people accused of crimes to head right back out and commit more crimes.

Have things changed in the House in the post-Madigan era?

Democratic Representative Michael Madigan of Chicago served as the Illinois House Speaker for 36 years. He maintained tight control over the House and substantial influence over state politics in general.

Madigan was a frequent target of Republican criticism through the years. He stepped down from the leadership role in January, 2021, and resigned from the legislature in February, 2021.

Democratic Representative Emanuel “Chris” Welch replaced Madigan as Speaker of the House.

Hammond said she’s noticed a difference since then.

“There was a number of bills that passed, and I don’t believe that if Madigan had been in the speaker’s position that they would have even made it to committee. He was very careful about protecting certain groups and certain interests,” she said.

“Speaker Welch has taken a different approach. He has allowed his members to have more of a voice, regardless of whether they’re in leadership, and to vent their issues. I think in some ways that’s a good thing, but then in other ways it makes for a bit of chaos at times.”

Swanson also said there is quite a bit of difference between Welch and Madigan. He said Welch has taken more of a hands-off approach.

“Speaker Welch is trying to find his place and trying to find his allegiance with some of his own members,” he said.

“Right now the Democrat party or caucus is fractioned into many different organizations between progressives, between Latinx, between the Black caucus. He’s got his hands full to keep the group together.”

Swanson questioned whether Madigan would have allowed the police reform bill to go through.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.