When the new General Assembly is sworn in January, three metro-east state senators who have served several terms won’t be there. State Sens. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, Bill Haine, D-Alton, and Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, all did not run for re-election in 2018.

Clayborne and Haine have decided to retire from the legislature, and McCarter decided not to run again and is awaiting confirmation by the U.S. Senate to be the next ambassador to Kenya. McCarter will be succeeded by Republican Jason Plummer.

However, in the Illinois General Assembly’s upper chamber, Clayborne, who served since 1995, and Haine, who served in the state Senate since 2002, were in leadership positions: Clayborne is the outgoing majority leader. Haine is an assistant majority leader.

State Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, said he and state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, who have longer tenures in the General Assembly than the remaining metro-east legislators, would have to work to continue the metro-east’s influence in Springfield. Costello said Clayborne and Haine being in their positions helped make sure the metro-east and Southern Illinois were at the table and voices heard.

“I would tell you it would be shallow to think it would not have an effect, but it means people like myself or Jay, who’ve been around a little longer, Jay quite sometime around longer than I have, (are) going to have to make sure we step up and try to fill some of those shoes,” Costello said. “Obviously majority leader Clayborne and Senator Haine will be sorely missed. They’re terrific people who have brought a lot to the metro-east.”

Haine, who decided not to run again after being diagnosed and undergoing treatment for blood cancer, is being succeeded by Democrat Rachelle Aud Crowe. Clayborne is being replaced by Democrat Christopher Belt.

Hoffman does serve as majority conference chairman in the House, and Costello serves as the chairman of the Downstate Democratic Caucus.

“Those are some folks who were advocates for the metro-east and had the knowledge and seniority to get things done. There will be some big shoes to fill,” Hoffman said of Haine and Clayborne. “Sometimes it’s tough to replace people, but no one is irreplaceable. It’s good we’re going to have fresh ideas with some of the new people coming in, and are coming in from different walks of life.”

Hoffman a leader also makes sure other legislators who joined recently, such as state Rep. LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis, state Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville and state Rep. Monica Bristow, D-Godfrey, are able to bring up concerns for their districts.

“A leader will make sure that the folks in their area that represent their area will have a voice when they’re just getting into the general assembly,” Hoffman said. “I hope I’ve been helpful to LaToya, and Katie, and now Monica, I know the same will be true for the leadership in the senate, who will make sure if there are issues that need to be addressed in a local area that they’ll help Chris (Belt) and Rachelle (Aud Crowe) address them. I know Bill and James will be helpful, even though they’re not elected, in just navigating the legislative process.”

Hoffman added the metro-east legislators will be able to accomplish more for the region as long as they continue to work together, no matter the party.

“You’re always stronger if you can have a coalition like that that can advocate for an area,” Hoffman said. “Not all places in Illinois have that. We’re lucky that we have a significant delegation.”

The state Senate also adopted resolutions honoring Haine’s and Clayborne’s retirements.

“It is a tremendous loss to the metro-east just in institutional knowledge,” said state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, who succeeded Republican Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, who chose not to run in the 2016 election.

Luechtefeld served from 1995 to 2017 and had been a deputy and assistant Republican leader.

“I respect both Senator Haine and Senator Clayborne. I like to think those that are still around have been starting to get a little more experience,” Schimpf said. “I’m hoping I could pick up some of the slack for them. I got myself appointed to JCAR, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, that’s a tremendously important post. I have a good relationship and really all of our downstate delegation has a fairly good relationship, we all work well together. And we’ll be able to continue to lookout for the interests of the metro-east.”

Senate President John Cullerton said there will be a learning process for Crowe, Belt and Plummer as they come in.

“That exists for anyone when they first start at the capitol. What strikes me is that these senators, just like their predecessors, are grounded in the people and issues of their communities,” Cullerton said in an email.

Cullerton said Clayborne and Haine themselves may have been questioned when they first got to Springfield.

“I’ve got to believe people had the same questions when Senators Clayborne and Haine were first chosen to represent the region. History has proven the wisdom of those choices. And now, from what I know of Senators-elect Belt and Crowe, I believe the people of the region have again shown their wisdom in selecting a new generation of leaders dedicated to aggressively representing the people and interests of the metro-east.”

The Democrats, who will have a supermajority in the state Senate, plan to nominate Cullerton to be Senate president in the next General Assembly. However, other leadership positions, such as leader and assistant leaders have yet to be determined.

Greenwood said there would be another person who will help care for metro-east issues: Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker.

“What we found out during the campaign trail, is Gov.-elect Pritzker and Lt. Gov.-elect Stratton were in our metro-east area on numerous occasions,” Greenwood said. “More times than I can remember than any other administration that was looking for voters and looking for support in our area. I think that attention will not go away. I’m sure they will continue to support and be concerned about the issues that affect us.”

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November 16, 2018 at 01:46PM