Champaign County auditor to seek seat

Champaign County auditor to seek seat

Champaign County Auditor Mike Frerichs, a Gifford Democrat, will announce today that he is running for the 52nd District seat in the Illinois Senate.

Frerichs, 32, was scheduled to make his candidacy announcement at stops today in Temple Park in downtown Danville and at the Champaign County Courthouse in downtown Urbana.

Frerichs becomes the first announced candidate for the Senate seat held by Rick Winkel, R-Urbana, who announced last week that he would not seek a second Senate term.

"I decided to run this summer," Frerichs said. "I had people approach me about it for a while.

"I think a lot more can be done for this area in economic development, in help for the University of Illinois, in education reform and improvement to health care access," he said.

Frerichs stressed his strong ties to the district, where he grew up and has many relatives. He lives in his hometown of Gifford in northeast Champaign County with his wife, Laura.

Appointed county auditor in December 2002 when former Auditor Gerrie Parr retired, Frerichs won a four-year term in 2004, defeating Republican financial counselor Brad Jones, 56.3 percent to 43.7 percent.

Frerichs served from December 2000 to December 2002 on the Champaign County Board, where he was the only Democrat elected from a strong Republican district and helped Democrats to a historic 14-13 majority on the county board after decades of Republican control.

Before that, Frerichs made two unsuccessful runs for the Illinois House, losing to then state Rep. Timothy Johnson, a Republican, in 1998 and in the Democratic primary in 2000 to Tuscola Democrat Charles "Chub" Conner, who was the choice of Illinois House Speaker, Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

"It's a district near and dear to my heart," Frerichs said about the 52nd District.

"I have a lot of family and friends who I would like to go off and fight for in Springfield."

Frerichs said a long list of Champaign and Vermilion County Democrats are supporting his candidacy, including former Vermilion County Board Chairman Todd Lee, Vermilion County Democratic Chair Don Dunavan and current Vermilion County Board Chairman Bill Boyer.

In Champaign County, he said his backers include Parr, former county board member Robert Kirchner, former county board Chairwoman Patricia Avery, former Champaign Mayor Dan McCollum, Champaign City Council members Giraldo Rosales, Mike La Due, Ken Pirok and Marci Dodds, Urbana council member Charlie Smyth and Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz.

But Frerichs' stance on the controversial abortion issue could prompt a primary challenge from the left. Frerichs said he favors parental notification laws for women under age 18 seeking an abortion and opposes the so-called partial-birth abortion procedures. Asked if he opposes abortion generally, Frerichs said Roe vs. Wade is the law of the land.

If the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn Roe vs. Wade, Frerichs said "I'll look at every bill that comes through."

Champaign County Board member Brendan McGinty of Urbana, who describes himself as pro-choice, said he has been approached by Democrats asking him if he would consider challenging Frerichs.

"I'm not ruling it out at this point," said McGinty, who is the owner of a corporate training and communications firm. "There's still a long way to go until the primary. I'm asking some confidants both regionally and statewide for advice."

On the Republican side, state Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, and Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden are considering a run. Shelden said he would not run, however, if Black enters the race.

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