CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Champaign County Democrats will decide who will fill the late senator Scott Bennett’s seat by the end of this week.
The appointment process is getting criticism after the man responsible for making the appointment entered the race.
Over the weekend, Champaign County Democratic Party Chair Mike Ingram joined the list of candidates for the seat.
Legally, Ingram could appoint himself, but he is recusing himself from the vote.
The state constitution lays out exactly how the appointment process works. The decision falls to the county party chairs in the district, and the number of votes each chair gets is based on the number of votes cast in the most recent primary election in each county. In this case, the only counties in the district are Champaign and Vermilion County, and Champaign County gets 80 percent of the votes.
His vice chair will make the decision instead, with the help of a 16-person advisory committee picked by Ingram and other party officials. Ingram believes this injects plenty of objectivity into the process. He waited until the last few days to submit his name, and he told WCIA that was due to his concern over the optics.
“It felt opportunistic, I think is the best word that I could come up with,” Ingram told WCIA Tuesday. “The way that the statute is written is super not democratic. It’s just, it’s just how we deal with these things. And so I was trying to find a way to make that better. “
Those steps are not enough for State Representative and candidate for the seat Carol Ammons.
She views the Senate seat as the obvious next step for herself, seeing as her district would double in size. She said the committee was hand-picked to choose Ingram for the seat.
“I would have no objection to that if that’s what he wanted to do,” Ammons said. “Simply appoint himself regardless of my record or my service to Champaign County and Democrats and to the 103rd district. So if he wanted to appoint himself, he should have simply appointed himself. This charade is nothing more than a charade and is unnecessary.”
When asked to respond to Ammon’s comments, Ingram said, “I tried to find the best way to give everyone a fair shot. I would disagree with her assessment.”
In total, 10 people want the seat:
- Lawyer Cristina Manuel
- Cynthia Cunningham, who lost to Representative Mike Marron in last year’s election
- Champaign School Board Member Gianina Baker
- Champaign County Board Chair Kyle Patterson
- Former Prosecutor Matt Sullard
- Therapist Mickensy Ellis-White
- City of Champaign Township Supervisor Andy Quarnstrom
- Champaign County Township Assessor Paul Faraci
On Wednesday, each candidate will present their case to the Vermilion County Party Chair, the Champaign County Vice Chair and the 16-person advisory committee.
The committee is made up of party organizers, community leaders and politicians including State Treasurer Michael Frerichs.
The committee was originally intended to give input to Ingram, before he entered the race.
Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz is also on the committee.
“I appreciate the opportunity to join with community leaders, stakeholders and friends of Scott Bennett to hear from the applicants and give our thoughts and opinions to the party leaders who are responsible for making this important decision,” Rietz said in a statement. “I know everyone on the advisory committee is going in with open minds and appreciation for those who are interested in taking on this public office.”
This article has been updated to reflect that David Palmer has withdrawn his nomination.