EFFINGHAM — Lt. Governor Sheila Simon said, at a soup supper held by the Effingham County Democrats Saturday, that what differentiates downstate Illinois from the rest of the state is a sense of community and togetherness.
“We really are a little bit more connected to where we live, both in terms of the land and in terms of our gardens and farms but in terms of the people,” she said. “I think in Southern Illinois, we have more connections with our friends, our neighbors and our relatives.”
Around 60 people attended the dinner, where 107th District State Representative candidate Dr. Josh Berger, Congressional candidate Eric Thorsland and Associate Judge Ericka Sanders, who is running for circuit judge, all also spoke. While many of the candidates and speakers acknowledged Effingham County’s traditionally conservative past, they called for more involvement as well as additional campaigning and engagement with people throughout the district.
Simon said it’s important for local democrats to continue to campaign for the party to allow for southern Illinois interests to be fought for on a state wide level.
“I think it makes a difference to have everyone from across the state of the statewide ballot,” she said. “I am often the only person from southern Illinois in the room when we’re in Springfield or Chicago but I’m glad to be that person.”
Simon said she acknowledged how many individuals, liberals and conservatives, see a competition between Chicago and downstate Illinois. However, she said both areas often face similar struggles when it comes to funding education.
“I think it’s easy to say ‘it’s us against Chicago’ but the better answer is it’s not that. The better answer is let’s look at the ways that kids going to school in Chicago have it just as bad as kids going to school in Effingham, or all sorts of parts of the state that don’t have a huge real estate tax base,” Simon said. “The education system that we have right now accepts as a given that your education is determined by your zip code.”