Retired Eastern professor announces plans to run for 110th district representative


Toluwalase Solomon

Shirley Bell participates at a Trivia Night sponsored by the EIU Democrats, Coles County Democrats and Coles County Progressives. Earlier in the night, Bell her announced her intent to seek the nomination for the 110th district state representative seat.

Chrissy Miller, News Editor

Shirley Bell, a retired communication studies professor, announced her intention to seek the nomination for state representative of the 110th district on Thursday.

Bell did this for the first time at Charleston’s second annual Trivia Challenge, put together by the EIU Democrats, Coles County Democrats and Coles Progressives.

Current Rep. Reggie Phillips (R-Charleston) has said he is not planning on seeking re-election in the upcoming election.

According to The News-Gazette, Chris Miller, 63, of Oakland has said he will seek the Republican nomination in the 110th district.

Miller is a farmer, business owner and part-time football coach.

He has never run for public office before, according to The News-Gazette.

While she has never held a government position before, Bell has been doing legislative outreach for the Coles County Illinois Democrats.

She said this has allowed her to study current issues.

The divisive nature of the state government today is something that must change for progress to be made, Bell said.

“I’m quite willing to listen to good ideas, no matter who proposes them,” Bell said. “I believe I work well with people. I know a lot of communications, so I’m able to listen to people and if somebody has a good idea and they’re not from my party I’m still going listen to the good idea because the goal is to solve the problem.”

Bell said she chose to run for state representative for a number of reasons.

She referenced the budget impasse, saying “two and a half years without a budget is two and a half years too long.”

One thing Bell said she would like to do is focus on is continuing the progress made by the School Funding Reform Act.

“Illinois was ranked number one in the most inequitable funding for our k through 12 schools,” she said. “So solving that again, our kids were held hostage and the whole state, EIU, was held hostage with a budget impasse.”

While the reform bill passed, Bell said it is important to make sure the actual change in school funding takes place.

“Districts like this one with low-income areas… everybody gets what they always got, but everybody will also get additional monies. Our district will get additional monies,” she said. “I want to make sure that happens.”

Bell said valuing corporate interests over those of the people has also been a big issue in the state government.

“I want to make sure that all the people of this district have multiple educational opportunities,” Bell said. “So we fully invest in pre-k through higher education, but we also provide additional educational opportunities. Illinois, like the nation, has a huge shortage of skilled labor jobs, so masons, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, we need those people.”

Additional opportunities in these areas could take the form of apprenticeships, public-private partnerships and possibly tailoring the educational opportunities for “the people we need working here in this district,” Bell said.

Bell said she wants jobs available that pay a livable wage, provide benefits, health insurance and that are stable rather than temporary.

“We’re using temp workers horribly. They’re kept on for 39 weeks and then they’re laid off and then they rehire them,” Bell said. “People can’t invest in a job if they don’t know that job is going to continue, so stability and a path for advancement (are needed).”

Bell said she is glad Medicaid was expanded and is helping people. When talking to senior citizens as she was doing her canvasing, Bell said many of them expressed insecurities about what the future of Medicare would be.

“We have 17,000 seniors in this district. Those people are living, doing the best they can to live on what they’ve got,” Bell said. “They’re very insecure. They are feeling like they don’t know that they’re going to be able to keep healthcare, that they’re going to be able to pay their bills, pay for their drug subscriptions.”

Paul Wieck, chair of the Coles County Democrats, said he appreciates Bell keeping her focus on jobs instead of divisive social issues.

“If you can’t clothe, educate and feed our children, then we’re not doing a good job as a state or as a nation,” Wieck said. “Focusing on public education is so important to this district. Not only to give our children opportunities, but because the major economic engines of this district are Eastern, Lake Land (College) and Lincoln Trail College.”

Bell will officially announce her campaign again at the Coles County Illinois Democrats Meeting at 10:30 a.m. Friday in the Charleston Carnegie Public Library.

Chrissy Miller can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]