Lance Yednock said he's spent the last year meeting with middle-class families on their doorsteps and he plans to take those conversations with him to Springfield.
Yednock, of Ottawa, entered to cheers from supporters when he arrived Tuesday night at JJ's Pub in Ottawa where he celebrated his victory as the 76th District Representative-elect. The district includes Ottawa and Streator, and includes La Salle, Bureau, Putnam and Livingston counties.
Yednock defeated incumbent Jerry Long, R-Streator.
"I think it's a win for the middle-class families of the 76th District," Yednock said after stepping outside the bustling bar. "(Voters) said they want someone down in Springfield who has their interests in mind first and I think that's what it's saying to everyone is 'we want to worry about middle-class families.' "
Yednock thanked supporters on the campaign trail as well as those that showed up to the voting booths where Yednock received 20,937 votes compared to Long's 17,038 — with one precinct left uncounted of the four-county district. Yednock won at a 55 percent clip, defeating Long 16,752 to 13,962 in La Salle County.
Now the work begins as Yednock, who said he will resign from his job as a business representative for Operating Engineers Local 150, said he wants to work toward reducing debt without putting it on the backs of middle-class families and ensuring budget stability, noting a desire to avoid budget shutdowns.
"I'm so happy that the voters in the district have given me the chance to represent them," Yednock said. "I also have as much anxiety of winning as I did losing as there's a lot of challenges in the state of Illinois and I want to make sure the Democratic party becomes the party that people want to represent them."
Yednock went into the election with the support of unions backing him throughout the campaign after defeating Jill Bernal, of Peru, in the Democratic primary.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations held an event in September expressing their disappointment with Long's voting record and their support for Yednock.
Long had an uphill battle ahead of him this election when the House Republican Organization withdrew its support from him when allegations of harassment from one of his staffers arose.
Long described touching the staffer in a "concerned manner" and said he believed the complaints were the sign of a "contentious" relationship with the GOP, in a prior interview.
Still, Long gained the support of Republican organizations in La Salle, Bureau, Putnam and Livingston counties, which make up the 76th District.
He said he knew it would be a close race, but expressed confidence.
"We did what we could," Long said prior to election results coming out. "I got a lot of support from Republicans but I didn't get any support from leadership. But that's not everything. I have gotten support from seven counties and received a tremendous amount from in district and out (of the district)."
He left a message for Yednock just before 11 p.m. to concede defeat and thanked supporters when speaking to media.
"I wanted to thank those who have worked hard on our behalf," Long said. "To those who voted for me, thank you and I’m glad to have provided good constituent service and to help move Illinois in a positive direction."
Long said he was uncertain about running for political office again in the future.
Long ran on a campaign of distancing himself from both parties and identifying as something closer to an independent candidate. He also expressed that voters for Long were expressing a frustration with House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Yednock never gave a firm answer in interviews regarding his perspective of Madigan, but noted in a previous Times interview that any candidate for speaker in the future would need to make a "good case" for middle-class families and the 76th District to have his support.
Yednock said he looks forward to serving the district and continuing an open dialogue with constituents.
"I'm just going to take in the thought of me going door to door every day for a year, talking to people, hearing what they really have to say, what's really important to them. And what I'll continue to do is hearing them out as I'm their next state legislator," Yednock said. "I'll be listening to them all the time."
The lack of support from the Republicans also led to a reduction in funds being poured into the district race. Long received $124,022.15 from the GOP during this election before being shut out in mid-September. Yednock received $443,301.27 from the Democratic party, not including an additional $117,642.22 from unions since Aug. 31.
Two years ago, when Long defeated Democratic incumbent Andy Skoog, Long raised $1.7 million while Skoog pulled in $1.3 million, with most coming from their parties.