Jason Woolard, a self-proclaimed "simple guy who doesn't like a lot of pomp and circumstance," has spent the last month knocking on doors across the 117th District that spans Williamson, Franklin, and Hamilton Counties in southern Illinois.
"I've not been surprised to hear that regardless of age, county, or party affiliation, we've all got the same concerns," he said, "jobs, education, and healthcare."
On Tuesday evening, Woolard went to the heart of the 117th District flanked by about 250 supporters to announce his candidacy for the office of State Representative. He will challenge incumbent Dave Severin (R-Benton).
Born and raised in southern Illinois, Woolard began his working career as a journeyman lineman and volunteered as a steward in the field before beginning to work full-time as a business representative for the IBEW about 10 years ago. He now serves as the president of the Southern Illinois Central Labor Council for the AFL-CIO.
"Every single person I've talked to wants to see the middle-class restored in southern Illinois," he said. "My priority is working families in southern Illinois. We need jobs with good income, not just wages, but benefits."
Woolard told the crowd that Severin had failed southern Illinois in "not standing up to Gov. Rauner to protect good-paying jobs" in the local correctional facilities." He noted that Severin "walked out of the Capitol instead of taking a vote," a move he claims jeopardized the livelihood of over 100 local nurses.
"If Dave Severin isn't willing to do the job that southern Illinois has elected him to do," said Woolard, "then I am more than willing to take his place."
Severin released a statement to the Benton News and Marion Republican on Woolard's announcement that he had previously aired on WSIL TV.
"The 117th District already got rid of a Mike Madigan supporter in 2016," he said. "We don't need another one."
Severin went on to say, "I'll continue to fight for lower taxes, smaller government, the protection of our Second Amendment, and for religious liberty in Springfield."
While referencing what he deemed as Severin's "role in extending the state's budget impasse," Woolard told the crowd he would fight for better education and training "in the hopes that working class families can get ahead and not just get by."
Severin said he "looks forward to the upcoming election in 2018 and welcome Mr. Woolard to the race."
Woolard said he "absolutely believes" it will take a bipartisan effort to help working families in southern Illinois. "I have a history of working with different leaders who don't always have the same viewpoint," he said. "I've been successful. I'll take those skills to Springfield and continue the fight."