Sunday, August 14, 2005

A Look at the 51st Legislative District

I had heard vague allusions to the "vulnerability" of Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson(R-Greenville) and decided to investigate. State Rep Ron Stephens, a Watson protege and the Leader's successor in the Illinois House was defeated in 1990 by a little known trial lawyer. His name: Jay C Hoffman. (Stephens won in a neighboring district in 1992. He shares the 51st with Watson and Filder.)
Leader Watson is presently serving a four year term and is next up for re-election in 2006. Thus, his most recent race was in 2002. Watson, with 59.49 percent, defeated Democratic challenger John Dunn, a former state legislator from Decater. The Leader's 51st senate district lies in Bond, Clinton, Effingham, Fayette, Macon, Madison, Moultrie, Shelby, and St. Clair Counties. Dunn carried only his own Macon County, where over a third(36.52%) of voters reside. (Watson had only 43.67% there.) This historically Democratic bastion is represented by State Rep Bob Filder(D-Decater), who narrowly won re-election in 2004. According to this article in the Illinois Leader, the 2000 map which gave Watson Effingham County was designed to draw him out of his seat, but there, the Democrats failed. He carried it with a comfortable 68.86%. However, it accounted for just under 3% of voters. Watson's home of Greenville is in Bond County, which he carried with 75.38%. Watson also did extraordinarily well in St Clair and Clinton Counties.
A Democratic candidate in the 51st could exploit relatively minute geographical differences, but, on the whole, faces an uphill battle. His constituents can look forward to be represented by Leader Watson for years to come(or as long as he chooses to run). What the future holds for his successor is unknown. One thing of which one can be sure is that the Janus that is the 51st, despite it's tendency to preserve the status quo, may hold some surprises in store for us.

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