KEENES, Ill. (WCIA) — Sarah Frey, a family pumpkin farmer whose distribution deal with Walmart propelled her company to nationwide fame and impressed the likes of academic experts at Harvard Business School, is quietly growing support in the early stages of a 2020 primary contest to replace outgoing U.S. Representative John Shimkus in the 15th Congressional District.
Republicans in Washington, D.C., are “looking for a woman in that seat,” according to two sources close to the party’s effort to recruit candidates for the open seat. The focus on recruiting a female candidate could help the Illinois GOP address a gender deficit on Capitol Hill. All five Republicans currently serving in Illinois’ Congressional delegation are men.
The push to recruit a female could also be interpreted as an early snub to State Senator Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville), who has not yet officially announced a campaign, but immediately started seeking support from state party officials after Rep. Shimkus announced he would not seek re-election.
Republicans on Capitol Hill believe Frey’s success at the intersection of agriculture and retail distribution give her instant credibility in a rural farm district that sorely needs new jobs. Seven of the 16 counties with the highest unemployment rate in Illinois lie within the 15th district.
GOP sources said Frey’s background in agriculture and business also “could provide support for the President’s trade policies.” She could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Wayne County entrepreneur told the Huffington Post in 2015 that immigration reform was the “greatest challenge our business has ever faced,” and that an “inability to act” in Congress was discouraging to her.
To date, State Senators Chapin Rose, Dale Righter, State Representative Michael Marron, and Champaign attorney Erika Harold have all decided not to run for the open seat in 2020.