Democrat Mitchell Esslinger announced his bid for the Illinois House Wednesday, with a campaign announcement that targeted his opponent, Republican incumbent Brad Halbrook.
At a stop in St. Joseph, the 26-year-old Esslinger accused Halbrook of supporting divisiveness and the status quo, and not caring about the needs of ordinary people.
“This district has seen its good days and its bad days,” said Esslinger, speaking to supporters outside the St. Joseph Municipal Building. “But our current representative is failing to deliver for elders, the disabled, families with children, union workers, our environment, our infrastructure, and our brothers and sisters across the rest of Illinois.”
Esslinger said the death of his father — a veteran who took his life after a heart attack left him with huge medical debts — inspired him to seek ways to help vulnerable people.
Esslinger’s St. Joseph announcement was posted on the Champaign County Young Democrats’ Facebook page. The candidate scheduled other announcements throughout the 102nd District.
Esslinger’s campaign website says he attended the University of Illinois, and worked as a renovator on his family’s rental properties. He currently works on his family’s centennial farm, and helps care for a family friend’s autistic son. “In doing so,” Esslinger’s website says of him, “he has seen how families struggle to get the care they need and decided to change that for hard-working people in our district.”
Neither Esslinger or any other Democrat ran for nomination in the 102nd District in the March 17 primary. Esslinger was on the primary ballot in the 15th congressional district as a Democratic National Convention delegate for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Esslinger will be Halbrook’s first Democratic opponent. Halbrook is a farmer and small businessman who ran unopposed for his first two terms in the 102nd District. He was previously elected in 2012 (again, with no Democratic opposition) to serve a term representing the 110th District.
Halbrook’s website describes him as a fiscal and social conservative. He may be best known for introducing a bill (HR1010) last year urging Congress to declare the City of Chicago the 51st state … separating it from the rest of Illinois.
The 102nd Illinois House District covers parts of seven counties, from Macon County in central Illinois to Vermilion and Edgar County along the Indiana border. The district includes the towns of Arcola, Sullivan, Shelbyville, Tuscola, Paris, Chrisman and Homer.