PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Entering the Democratic primary for Illinois’ 91st District, McLean County Board Member Sharon Chung is looking for a new role come this fall.
Chung joined WMBD’s Matt Sheehan for On the Record this week, which airs Friday, April 8.
Sheehan: You’re currently a McLean County Board Member. What drove you to run for State Representative?
Chung: "This new map of the 91st is an exciting map. It really consolidates Bloomington and Normal together so that we can have a unified voice here in Springfield. The community has always been split between two different State Rep. and State Senate Districts," she said. "The other thing is that I’ve really enjoyed my time on the McLean County Board. Even though I’m relatively a newcomer to politics, I’ve really enjoyed the impact I’ve been able to make so far."
Chung will not be running again this fall for McLean County Board. She said she’s really enjoyed her time on the Board, but is ready for a new journey.
"When I was first elected on the County Board, there were just 5 Democrats out of a 20 member board. When I was elected, then we had 7. Then after 2020’s election, we had 9. So I’m excited to see what happens here in 2022," Chung said.
Sheehan: Last month, you joined a news conference for the Asian American Caucus to speak out against violence and hate towards Asian-Americans. You mentioned education on Asian American history is very important in our schools. Could you talk about the importance of the TEACHH Act — and why you think it’s needed here in Illinois?
Chung: "I’m proud to be a part of that group," she said. "We’ve been able to use our combined voices to really try and get this legislation passed. It was a huge win for us. I have 2 young daughters, and when I told them the TEACHH Act passed, they cheered really loudly. They’re nine and seven. We talk a lot about history and how important it is to learn it. My children, when they come home from school, especially during Hispanic Heritage Month and Black History Month. They come back with all these great facts about all these figures throughout history. Just knowing that they’ll be able to learn about Asian-Americans in history is really exciting to me. For them, it shows our history is worthy of being taught in schools."
Through these conversations, Chung said she’s seen firsthand how important education is.
"People really fear what they don’t know. The more we can teach people about history and the challenges Asian-Americans have faced, and also the accomplishments that we’ve had, I think that can only help," Chung said.
Sheehan: Recently, former House Speaker Michael Madigan was formally indicted. He now has to answer to a 22-count corruption indictment. What’s your reaction to the indictment, and what would you do if elected State Representative, to ensure corruption is out of Illinois politics?
Chung: "I’m a lifelong Illinoisan. Corruption in Illinois politics has been a story since I’ve been a little kid," she said. "I do think that corruption, at any level, needs to be prosecuted. This is a step in having people have faith in their elected officials. Just last night, my husband was watching C-SPAN, and he was watching this Congressional hearing on Defense contracts. Some Congresspeople said, ‘Well we have to purchase 1 of these missile systems, why don’t we purchase three?’ So my husband typed some things into the internet, and he found out that one of this Congressman’s top five donors is the company that makes that missile defense system. It’s things like that which make people very cynical. They don’t trust the people they’ve elected to really look out for their community’s best interest. For me, I’ve gotten to know a lot of lawmakers in the past few years. The ones I admire the most are the ones who I know are in it for the right reasons. They have a love of their community and a love of public service, and I aim to be one of those people elected to Springfield."
Sheehan: What do you think is the main challenge the 91st District is facing, and how do you plan to address it?
Chung: "The way this new map is drawn is made up of this wide range of people with amazing talents and skills. We have students at ISU, Illinois Wesleyan, Heartland Community College, and ICC. We have farmers, white-collar workers in the insurance companies in Bloomington-Normal, we have blue-collar manufacturing people in Caterpillar and Rivian. We have middle-class people like myself and my husband. We have faced a lot of the same fears and challenges. Right now inflation is on everybody’s mind, and the supply chain issues going on," she said.
Chung mentioned how she’s spoken with farmers who have said fertilizer has become really hard to come by.
"Because of the things that are going on in Ukraine. Thinking about the ripple effect and how it can affect all of us," Chung said. "We’re still having the everyday challenges of rising healthcare costs, being able to pay your bills, education costs as well. I’m a teacher. I have students who are juniors and seniors in high school. They’re really trying to figure out if they can afford college and if they can get more scholarships."
Chung is also a performing musician. When the Pandemic hit, she said she lost thousands of dollars in work overnight.
"I lost a lot of concerts I was scheduled to perform in. I just remember sitting there and trying to figure out how we were going to do this. I have 2 young daughters, and a husband, we’ve got a mortgage and bills to pay. Knowing that I’ve gone through those things, hopefully, I can be a great representative for the 91st," Chung said.
Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced his administration was extended the Student Loan Moratorium through August 31st. It was set to expire on May 1st. Here’s what Chung had to say about the cancellation of student debt and the moratorium extension.
"These are fears that students have. They want to go to school, get an education, and hopefully get a good job. But a lot of times, especially with how students costs have bloomed, even since 20 years ago, it’s scary for a lot of people. Wages have been kind of stagnant. Education costs have gone up. Any sort of moratorium, I think is great. Extending that is wonderful. Because as people are trying to get back on their feet during the Pandemic, any assistance that we can do in that way, is great," Chung said.
Sheehan: What are some of the major projects you’ve been a part of during your time on the McLean County Board? How do you think it will benefit you as State Representative?
Chung: "When I first ran in 2018, the Board met at 9:00 a.m. It’s a time that not many people in the public can go watch meetings. That was one of the platforms I ran on," she said. "We were able to change the meeting times to 5:30 in the evening. Now people can come, it’s after work. People are much more engaged, I think. We have students who get awards through 4-H, they can come after school and receive their awards and get recognized. The Pandemic had some benefits, I guess since we had to stream our meetings. Now that we’re in person, we fought to keep meetings streamed."
Chung said more accessibility to the meetings promotes transparency in politics.
"I can’t see anything wrong with that," and Sharon said she hopes to bring that form of transparency into Springfield if elected as State Representative.
Chung will be facing Karla Bailey-Smith in the Democratic Primary. You can see Bailey-Smith’s interview below.
Chung’s interview airs on WMBD News This Morning Friday, April 8 at 5:40 a.m. An additional segment will air on WMBD News at 4 Friday as well.
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April 7, 2022 at 12:03PM