SPRINGFIELD — Wednesday's Illinois Senate inauguration united three young men who cut their political teeth in Champaign County politics: incumbent Democratic Sen. Mike Frerichs of Champaign, and newly elected Republican Sens. Chapin Rose of Mahomet and Jason Barickman, now of Bloomington.
Frerichs, 39, is a former Champaign County Board member and county auditor. He was elected to the Senate in 2006.
Rose, also 39, was active in University of Illinois student government, served in the Champaign County state's attorney's office and was elected to the state House in 2002. He was elected to a newly drawn Senate district in November.
Barickman, 37, was chairman of the Champaign County Republican Party until two years ago when he was appointed to the House. Because he was elected to a newly drawn Senate district, Barickman recently moved from Champaign to Bloomington. He defeated former Sen. Shane Cultra of Onarga in a GOP primary election last March.
All three expressed optimism that by working together, they'll be able to help Champaign-Urbana, the University of Illinois and the rest of East Central Illinois.
"My hope is that it makes it easier to work across the aisle because the problems we have in this state are too great to be tackled by one party," Frerichs said. "I've known (Barickman and Rose) for several years. We're very friendly, and I hope that that kind of relationship extends to a working relationship in the Senate chamber."
Barickman said he and Rose are "very good friends," and expressed gratitude that "he has really helped show me around in the House.
"Mike is someone I have come to know over the years. There's a real opportunity for us to represent Champaign County and the Champaign community really well, whether it's the university or other issues that are not necessarily partisan issues. I think you'll see us form coalitions a lot. That will be a strong voice when you have three somewhat local state senators, all on the same page on an issue. I would hope to see us move forward issues that are important to East Central Illinois."
Rose, who called Barickman "one of my best friends," said recent changes in the makeup of both the Senate and the House — where Democrats added to their majorities in both chambers — mean lawmakers will need to reach across the aisle.
"It's not so much party as much as region. I think it bodes well for our region that you've got, starting on the Indiana border, Republicans and Democrats alternately representing areas, all the way across the state to Quincy," he said. "From a regional perspective there really isn't a partisanship there. What I try to do is build coalitions, like restoring (the Police Training Institute at the University of Illinois). That wasn't Chapin Rose. That was a group of us, with (Rep.) Naomi (Jakobsson) and Mike (Frerichs) and me."
There is, he said, "a lot of young blood over here and a lot of fresh ideas. I think that's good. I think it's good to have young blood, enthusiasm and interest. That's for sure."