BLOOMINGTON — When Tari Renner announced that he wouldn’t seek a third term as Bloomington mayor, he also said he wasn’t “going anywhere.”
But more than a month after leaving City Hall, Renner, a 63-year-old Democrat, is eyeing a new destination — the Illinois House.
“I have talked with some people in Springfield and depending on some other calculations and conversations I would definitely consider running for the 91st (seat),” Renner confirmed to The Pantagraph this week.
Renner’s hedge references the Illinois House of Representatives district revised through the state’s once-a-decade redrawing of legislative maps. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the maps into law earlier this month.
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The dogleg-shaped 91st House district contains most of the urban core of Bloomington-Normal and stretches west to the suburbs of Peoria. No current lawmaker lives in the district.
It captures the campuses of Illinois State University, Heartland Community College, Illinois Central College’s East Peoria location and Illinois Wesleyan University, where Renner has taught political science for nearly three decades.
A resolution passed by the House explaining legislators’ reasoning for why districts were drawn as they were states the 91st District “maintains a community of interest among college students, faculty and staff” by keeping ISU and IWU “together and united within a single representative district.”
Renner called the new district “primarily a Bloomington-Normal district,” but acknowledged that it “does press to East Peoria and other parts where there are very few people.”
The 91st also collects the villages of Carlock, Congerville, Goodfield and Bartonville.
It compliments the adjacent 92nd House District — held by Democratic State Rep. Jehan A. Gordon-Booth — that covers the cities of Peoria and West Peoria and the village of Peoria Heights.
Peoria Mayor Rita Ali last month told a joint House-Senate Redistricting Committee she thought grouping her urban area with the Twin Cities would “be good for us in terms of addressing the needs and attracting resources to both areas.”
Both areas in the 2020 election voted strongly Democratic, while the rural portions that separate them lean heavily Republican.
“The (new legislative) map was quite artfully drawn,” Renner said.
In Bloomington, the district’s boundaries catch all of Wards 1, 4, 6 and 7, and slivers of Wards 2, 5 and 8. It avoids Wards 3 and 9 altogether.
Renner in his 2017 bid for a second mayoral term earned the most votes in every ward in the city except for Ward 8.
He lost by more than 50,000 votes, however, in 2004 when he ran as the Democratic candidate for Illinois’ 11th congressional district. The district at the time included the Bloomington-Normal area.
“Having been a mayor of a metro-sized city where you actually have to do things, understanding problem solving and getting things done at the bottom of the federalism food chain — that would be helpful in Springfield,” Renner said.
To be a viable candidate, Renner may also need to lean into his 12 years of experience as a Democrat on the McLean County Board and flex his relationships with party monoliths like U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who endorsed Renner during his 2009 bid for Bloomington mayor.
“There’s few people I know who work harder on a campaign than Tari Renner,” said Justin Boyd, who served as the chairman of Renner’s 2017 mayoral bid. “Could he do it and be competitive? Absolutely.”
Boyd said “someone like Tari” representing Bloomington-Normal in the General Assembly “would be beneficial for all of us.”
Were Renner to make it to Springfield, he’d at least have a friend in Republican State Rep. Dan Brady, who Renner maintained a healthy relationship with during his mayoral tenure.
Brady during a visit to the Miller Park Zoo this week told The Pantagraph that if Renner has the ambition and the support to run for the seat, then he should go for it.
Even still, Renner said serving as a state legislator is “much more salient” and a “whole different world” than leading as mayor.
“If I do decide to do this,” Renner said. “I’ll have to do a little more soul searching first.”
Look back: Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner’s time in office
Miller Park Zoo groundbreaking
Mobile testing at Ferrero USA
Connect Transit press conference
Vigil in Bloomington
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Luncheon
Federal Prospects Hockey League news conference
Downtown Pride Festival
Memorial Day parade
Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner
B-N officials sworn in
McLean County Democratic Party
Editorial board meeting
Bloomington Liquor Commission
Oath of Office 2013
Bloomington and Normal mayors
City Hall artwork
Contact Timothy Eggert at (309) 820-3276. Follow him on Twitter: @TimothyMEggert
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