Williamson begins campaign

Williamson begins campaign

CHAMPAIGN — Kristin Williamson, the latest Republican seeking to break an 11-year Democratic stranglehold on Champaign-Urbana's Illinois House district, Tuesday promised "forward-thinking leadership" and "effective representation" in Springfield.

And in the moderately liberal 103rd House District, that includes support for same-sex marriage, a position that would put Williamson at odds with all but two of the current 47 Republicans in the Illinois House.

"I believe this country was built on a foundation of individual freedoms and liberties, and as a representative of this community, I would advocate for rights and not to take rights away," said Williamson, a 32-year-old single mother who Tuesday announced her candidacy for the seat being given up by Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana.

A bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois passed the state Senate earlier this year but is still pending in the House.

On most other issues, though, Williamson is a fairly orthodox Republican.

"The Republican Party is really the party of limited government and being in a position where you have as much control over your life without government interference," she said. "That had always appealed to me and that's where I found myself. I think it was reinforced even more when 9/11 happened. That was really when I became active in the Republican Party."

She said she saw the GOP "as the party that took the lead in keeping our country safe. That was what was a high priority on my list at that time."

Williamson will try to turn the political tables in a district where Jakobsson won six consecutive elections with 53, 62, 59, 72, 63 and 69 percent of the vote over various GOP contenders.

It's unclear who Democrats will run for the seat in 2014 — a number of contenders say they're thinking about it — but it's clear who many local Republicans favor. A number of them, including party Chairman Habeeb Habeeb, state Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington, state Rep. Adam Brown of Champaign and County Auditor John Farney, attended Williamson's announcement Tuesday and said they would support her. Champaign City Council member Will Kyles said last week that he is still considering seeking the Republican nomination in the district that takes in almost all of Champaign-Urbana.

"She shares the values of the community that she lives in and she is the best person to represent those values in our state government," said Barickman. He called Williamson, who is the vice chair of the local Republican Party, "a perfect fit for this job because the voters here are willing to vote for effectiveness rather than partisanship."

In her remarks to supporters, Williamson said that she had faced "many economic challenges and personal roadblocks" in her life, including dropping out of high school and becoming a single mother after "a painful divorce."

Overcoming those obstacles will make her a better state representative, even as a member of the heavily outnumbered Republican caucus in the House, she said.

"I think I have life experience that has helped me be able to work with people and identify ways to overcome challenges. I want to go to Springfield and apply that life experience and that understanding to get things done," said the Effingham native who now lives in Urbana and works at Benefit Planning Consultants in Champaign. "I understand the political environment that's there, but what if all of us said, We don't want to try? I want to go there and try to make a difference."

Williamson said she dropped out of Effingham High School in her junior year.

"My family was undergoing some pretty severe financial times and I worked for 40 hours a week when I was in high school until the point where I finally just spent my time working. And it took quite a long time," she said. "I worked in fast food. I worked in a printing factory. It wasn't until I was about 18 that I got myself into a position to where I sat down and told my family that I want to do everything I can to get myself into college. I started taking night classes on the side and I got a job with AT&T in Effingham. Then they had an opening in Champaign and they had some efforts where they could assist with my education. And I made my way up here."

With the help of supportive friends, she said, she attended Parkland College, graduated from the University of Illinois and got jobs that helped her provide for her 9-year-old son, Evan.

On issues, Williamson said:

— She had no position on any particular pension reform measure. "The first thing I would need to do is sit down and talk to all parties and understand where the concerns are and how we can get it to where we fund the pensions first and how we reform it to how it can be sustainable."

— She would not support a progressive income tax. "Our state doesn't so much have a revenue problem as it has a spending problem," she said.

— She would "make every effort to not extend" the Illinois income tax, now 5 percent, that is supposed to drop to 3.75 percent in 2015.

"I know what it was like when that 5 percent tax increase hit our family's first paycheck and how we lost two weeks' worth of wages, and I want to make every effort to return that money back to taxpayers in this community," she said.

— She is "open to" gambling expansion in Illinois, including a casino in Danville. "But I don't think we want to have a gambling mecca here in central Illinois, because of some of the downsides," she said.

— She supports the concealed-carry gun law that legislators passed this spring. "I support the licensing and training," she said, "but I do have concerns about the underfunding of human services and mental health services. We have to make sure that guns don't fall into the hands of people who could harm themselves or others."

— She considers herself "pro-life," but "I don't believe that abortion is a black-and-white issue for women, and having been a young mom and having gone through that experience, I don't know that I could make that decision for someone else."

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sweet caroline wrote on September 25, 2013 at 10:09 am

Habeeb Habeeb, being the county GOP chairman, is supposed to remain neutral.  He should not be publicly supporting ANY candidate.  By endorsing Williamson so early in the game, he is giving her an unfair advantage and ultimately discouraging Will Kyles from even running.  I hope Will goes ahead and throws his hat in the ring, as he would make a tremendous representative.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on September 25, 2013 at 11:09 am
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Well, she does work for his company ...

sweet caroline wrote on September 25, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Which is even more reason for him to stay in the background.  Habeen has power in the county GOP.  His public endorsement of any candidate this early, especially one who works in his office, is, at minimum, in poor taste.  I have nothing against Williamson.  She's a fine candidate.  I just feel that Habeeb endorsing her will have a negative impact on Will Kyles' potential candidacy.  Will is also a fine candidate.

bluegrass wrote on September 25, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Support whichever candidate you like, but enough already with the public display of sour grapes. 

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on September 25, 2013 at 3:09 pm
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You know about irony, right?

bluegrass wrote on September 26, 2013 at 8:09 am

I breath it in like oxygen.

johnny wrote on September 26, 2013 at 4:09 am

Amen!  Kyles could make a real race of this.  Williamson is... by all accounts a nice person.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on September 25, 2013 at 3:09 pm
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In general, I love the idea of a non-bible-thumping, out of the bedroom (or "moderate" as some people insist on saying) Republican. It's served Illinois so well in the past.


But she'd better have opinions and answers next time someone asks her important policy questions.


Remember the N-G's non-endorsement of Rob Meister for this seat? They said, basically, that he was not conversant with the issues. They politely, if thinly, veiled the intimation that he'd never heard of the issues. Having been in that board room myself, I can imagine how that conversation went (or didn't go).


Since 1980, the national GOP has put forward so many braindead populists, it's impossible to take the party seriously, or not see it as a collective threat to the constitution.


I think Habeeb is smarter than that. I hope so.

bluegrass wrote on September 26, 2013 at 8:09 am

Rob McColley you are truly an interesting cat.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on September 26, 2013 at 3:09 pm
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wayward wrote on September 27, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Interesting.  The rhetoric about "limited government" and Illinois "spending problem" along with the opposition to extending the current 5% income tax or adopting a progressive income tax suggests that she's in favor of cutting services.  Which ones?  Bear in mind that not having enough revenue could be very expensive in certain situations.  For example, the Department of Transportation sometimes gets matching grants from the federal government, and if the state can't come up with its share, it could lose out on the whole thing.

cjwinla wrote on September 30, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Her support of the rollback of the income tax is the equivelant of supporting funding cuts to the University of Illinois and education. Simple fact unless Ms. Williamson can articulate the specific cuts she believes should occur with the loss of revenue accompanying her stance on rolling back the income tax hike. $6.8 billion a year is what the additional tax brings in. Good luck on her specifying $6.8 billion in cuts. Which means the reality is that if her proposal was actually enacted the District she wants to represent will face massive cuts at the U of I, education and healthcare funding. all major employers in the 103rd District. With a 12 thousand plus voter gap in R voters to D voters these kind of ideas should mobilize the Dems to an even greater voter turnout.

bluegrass wrote on October 01, 2013 at 8:10 am

So, in other words, not supporting a tax increase is the same as supporting a tax cut.