Tracy confirms run for Illinois Senate seat in 2016

Jil Tracy
Posted: Jun. 23, 2015 5:06 pm Updated: Jul. 8, 2015 2:42 pm

Senior Writer | 217-221-3372 | @DougWilsonWHIG

QUINCY — Jil Tracy has confirmed that she will run for the Illinois Senate after Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, announced last week that he will not seek re-election in 2016.

“I did meet with the Senate staff and (Senate Minority Leader) Christine Radogno came to Quincy to meet with me. I am committed and I am going to run,” Tracy said Tuesday.

Her formal announcement won't come until closer to the time when candidate petitions are circulated in September, but Tracy's commitment lets the Republicans focus on other potential races.

“We're very excited to have Jil as the candidate for us,” said Brian Burian, executive director of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee.

Democrats have a 39-20 majority over Republicans in the Senate. Although Burian said this will be “an excellent pick-up opportunity for us,” he said Republicans will not take anything for granted and will work hard for Tracy's election. He also expects the GOP will be “on offense” in several other districts after winning a seat in the Quad Cities last year that had been held for years by members of the Jacobs family.

Tracy, 59, served in the Illinois House for nearly nine years until her term expired in January. She ran as the lieutenant governor candidate on the ticket with Sen. Kirk Dillard last year when Gov. Bruce Rauner and Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti won the Republican nomination and went on to win the general election.

The winner of the state Senate race in 2016 will serve a two-year term.

“I'm familiar with the issues: The river, the business climate and school issues. I will be able to start this without missing a beat. There is a learning curve, but fortunately I'm beyond that,” she said.

Tracy's name recognition within the district is strong. She has represented all but three of the 11 counties that comprise the 47th District and has practiced law in all of the counties. It is geographically the largest state Senate district in Illinois.

Tracy and her husband, Jim, were in Naples, Fla., when Sullivan made his surprise announcement last week. She said she got immediate support when she talked with family members about her plans.

“My brother in-law said he had missed this. My husband is very active in politics and it was great to get the support of the family. You never go at this alone,” Tracy said.

Tracy said she had recharged and worked on fitness during the past five months since leaving the House. She has been exercising, eating healthier and got into yoga again — something she was not certain she could do after having knee replacement surgery.

“I've lost weight and gotten healthier and I'm going to try to stay committed to that and keep my regimen up,” Tracy said.

Burian confirmed that Republican officials had been “talking to Jil for several months,” hoping to convince her to challenge Sullivan next year. Tracy did not comment on those talks, but said she has “great respect for John and how he's served.” Rauner has said he will spend $20 million to help GOP legislative candidates next year since Democrats own super-majorities in both chambers.

Sullivan, an assistant majority leader, won his seat in 2002, defeating 20-year incumbent Laura Kent Donahue, and had won two other contested elections and one where he had no opposition.

“It just came down to at the end of this term, it will have been 14 years,” Sullivan said.

He plans to be more involved with the Sullivan family's real estate and auction business after he leaves office in January 2017.

“That opportunity came up about 60 days ago and that entered into my final decision,” Sullivan said.

Health was not a factor in his decision, Sullivan said.