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Sharon Chung edges out Scott Preston to become Illinois' first Korean American lawmaker

 Sharon Chung
Emily Bollinger
/
WGLT
Sharon Chung

Democrat Sharon Chung declared victory late Tuesday in the hotly contested Illinois 91st House District race. She'll be the first Democrat to represent Bloomington-Normal in the House since 1982. She's also the first Korean American elected to the General Assembly.

Republican Scott Preston conceded late Tuesday after Chung pulled ahead by about 1,500 votes. Chung won 52% of the vote.

Chung delivered remarks late Tuesday at the McLean County Democrats' watch party in north Normal.

“I remember thinking if we could do this, that would be such a huge statement for McLean County," Chung told the gathering.

 Scott Preston spoke with supporters at a campaign watch party at Fiala Brothers Brewery in Normal on Tuesday.
Emily Bollinger
/
Scott Preston spoke with supporters at a campaign watch party at Fiala Brothers Brewery in Normal on Tuesday.

Chung, a musician and teacher, also thanked the many young supporters who helped her campaign.

“I feel very hopeful for your future if we have young people like that getting involved,” Chung said.

The newly-drawn 91st House District includes much of Bloomington-Normal, stretching west along Interstate 74 to include parts of East Peoria and Bartonville. President Joe Biden won the district by seven points in 2020.

The district attracted a lot of outside campaign money as Democrats saw the race as a rare opportunity to pick up a seat in McLean County.

Preston, a small business owner and Normal Town Council member, had taken a narrow lead over Chung until late in the evening when mail-in ballots, which generally skew to the Democrats, put Chung in the lead.

“We knew from the outset of this race that this district was drawn to be a Democrat pickup," said Preston, adding the Democrats spent close to $2 million to boost Chung’s campaign. “We knew we were up for a fight. We took the fight and this thing was close.”

Preston, who was joined at his campaign watch party by three Illinois House candidates who were running unopposed (Bill Hauter, Dennis Tipsword and Travis Weaver), ran on a campaign to repeal the SAFE-T Act and to make Illinois business friendly.

Chung said the SAFE-T Act was “smart on crime” and has advocated for additional funding for education and infrastructure.

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Eric Stock is a reporter at WGLT.
Lyndsay Jones