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Eric Sorensen holds 17th Congressional District for Democrats as Esther Joy King concedes

Sorensen.jpg
Brady Johnson
/
WCBU
Eric Sorensen addresses supporters early Wednesday in the Quad Cities. Sorensen is a former TV meteorologist vying to be Illinois’ first LGBTQ member of Congress.

Democrat Eric Sorensen has declared victory in the 17th Congressional District. His opponent, Republican Esther Joy King called Sorensen Wednesday morning to concede, according to King spokesperson Ashley Phelps.

“This morning, my opponent Esther Joy King called to concede. I thank her for running, and while we disagreed on the issues, we both have a passion for service," Sorensen said in a statement.

King's campaign didn't immediately reply to a request for comment. She posted a statement to her Facebook page midday Wednesday:

"It has truly been the honor of my lifetime to run to serve the people of this district. I have gotten to know so many wonderful people who have helped me along the way. Unfortunately, this is not the outcome we wanted. When we started this journey four years ago, my goal was to bring better representation to this area and I think we've done that--little-by-little, bringing awareness to Northwestern and Central Illinois, focusing on the issues people care about, and making this seat competitive again because I believe accountability is critical. I want to thank all of my supporters, my team, and my family for the hard work they put in. I wish Eric the best of luck and I hope he will put the needs of this district over his personal ideology in Congress because the people deserve it," King wrote.

With 88% of precincts reporting as of Wednesday morning, Sorensen was leading with 51.7% of the vote, or a 7,500-vote margin:

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“From Day 1, we’ve said this campaign was about electing a representative who was known here, who’s from here, and who’s trusted here,” Sorensen said to his supporters early Wednesday in downtown Moline. “I’m going to work every day to represent the people in our communities, proudly.”

The 17th Congressional District includes parts of Bloomington-Normal, Peoria, Rockford and the Quad Cities. President Biden won this territory by 7 points in 2020. The 17th District was considered a toss-up. It was an open seat, after incumbent Rep. Cheri Bustos decided not to run for re-election after a tighter-than-expected win over King in 2020.

Sorensen, a Rockford native who now lives in the Quad Cities, is a former TV meteorologist and now Illinois’ first openly LGBTQ member of Congress.

East Moline resident Kathleen Connelo, 72, attended Sorensen’s watch party in downtown Moline. She watched Sorensen when he was a meteorologist on TV, saying he is a genuine guy.

“He would like to do the best for our district and I would love for him to win, [so] he can give us all a chance,” Connelo said around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. “I’m almost 73 years old, I don’t normally stay up late, but we came here early thinking we’d only stay for a few hours. Now, I do not even want to think about going home. I’m so excited because I was worried the way the polls were going earlier.”

Bruce Cesarek of Rockford was also at the Sorensen watch party.

“I’m 65 years old, and this is the first time I ever worked for a campaign because I know Eric personally from back in the day. We need an intelligent person in Washington, D.C., and that is why I told Eric I would volunteer for him,” Cesarek said.

Cesarek said he was impressed by all the young voters he met while canvassing. Another campaign staffer, Cherri Jameson, said a big reason for involvement in the campaign is because of the attacks on abortion rights, voting rights and inaction on climate change.

King, an attorney and JAG Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, conceded by phone Wednesday morning. She did not address supporters or the media Tuesday night at her watch party in East Moline. Multiple staff members and supporters declined to comment at her event.

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Ryan joined WGLT full-time in 2017 as Digital Content Director. He became Content Director of both WGLT and WCBU in 2020.
Brady Johnson is a correspondent at WCBU. He can be reached at bradyjohnson383@gmail.com.
Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.