Illinois State Senator Talks Politics with Knox Students

February 24, 2012

Illinois State Senator John Sullivan with Knox College students

As a 10-year-old boy, Illinois State Senator John Sullivan knocked on people's doors to help a family friend who was seeking election to public office. That experience, he told a group of Knox College students, probably planted the idea for his own run for the Illinois General Assembly a few decades later.

A student organization, Knox Democrats, hosted the February 20 event with Sullivan, a Democrat from Rushville. He described what it's like to campaign for office, serve in the Illinois Senate, and hold a top position as assistant Senate majority leader. He also took students' questions.

Three Knox students who attended Sullivan's appearance will work as interns for his 2012 re-election campaign. They are senior Julius Parod, a political science major from Evanston, Illinois; senior Katy Sutcliffe, a double-major in philosophy and biology from Stillwater, Minnesota; and Rachel Jackson, a first-year student from Chicago, Illinois.

Their work will include door-to-door campaigning, answering phones, and other tasks, Sullivan said, telling them: "It has the potential to be one of the best experiences you'll ever have."

Sullivan's campaign coordinator, 2011 Knox graduate Colin Davis, accompanied the senator on his campus visit.

A history major at Western Illinois University, Sullivan held several jobs before going into politics, including 15 years as an auctioneer.

"The auction business was great training to be an elected official," he said, explaining that he encountered different people in difficult situations almost every day.

Describing himself as a conservative Democrat, Sullivan said he's proud that he is willing to "reach across the aisle" and work with Republicans to try to solve problems.

Sullivan noted that Capitol Fax, a popular newsletter and blog that focuses on Illinois state government and politics, chose him to receive the 2011 "Golden Horseshoe Award" in the category of "Best Senate Democrat." The awards recognize achievement in various aspects of state government.

Sullivan is running unopposed in the Democratic primary for the 47th Senate District. The district's boundaries have been redrawn, as they are every 10 years after a Census, and the district now takes in part of Galesburg, including the Knox campus.

Randy Freese, a Republican from Paloma, Illinois, will face Sullivan in the November general election for the Senate seat.