Eric Thorsland 


Eric Thorsland knows he’s in a tough race to unseat longtime U.S. Rep. John Shimkus in Congress to represent Illinois’ 15th congressional district. Shimkus (R-Collinsville) has represented his constituents – who have skewed more and more Republican – through three redistricting changes since January 1997.


“I abhor a no contested election,” said Thorsland. “Even if it’s completely hopeless to win one, choice is important to me. You don’t go to vote and have a coronation. We’ve been hearing a lot about this with the gerrymandering of the districts now.”


Thorsland, 52, hails from rural Mahomet in East Central Illinois where he is employed as a Research Engineer in the University of Illinois Physics department. He is serving his second term as the Chairman of Champaign County’s Zoning Board of Appeals where he helps landowners come to fair resolution of land use disputes.


votebranding2After watching a conservative, anti-abortion Democrat by the name of Angela Michael offer only token opposition to Shimkus in 2012 and hearing rumblings that the single-issue candidate might run again this year – Thorsland threw his hat in the ring and ironically, won the primary unopposed.


“The first job that I thought I had was to make sure that an actual Democrat was the Democrat nominee,” said Thorsland, who is pro-choice. “We’ve been campaigning very hard and have been in every county. People have been very receptive.”


Thorsland, who also runs an organic farm with his wife, is well suited to appeal to the diversity of the rural district. He rides motorcycles; he hunts deer in the fall, but at the same time comes from academia – where he admits he became aware of the important social and equality issues of his campaign early on.

“The acceptance of a broader spectrum of people has gotten very high and the tide is with everyone,” Thorsland explains. “I’m not saying we’ve ended bigotry, racism and sexism – but legislatively, we’re getting there. We’ve given women the right to vote a long time ago and we still don’t pay them well. We gave blacks the right to vote and we still don’t treat them well. And we have the same thing with LGBT issues but the tide is turning.”


Thorsland, a longtime supporter of LGBT equality, including marriage, became aware of LGBT issues through gay classmates in high school and immediately upon entering campus at college.


“The nice part about research and the university environment is people are accepted for what their skill set is,” he continued. “[They are accepted for] what their knowledge set is and nobody gives a damn about who you’re at home with at night. It helps you think in a completely different way. The fact that it’s a question that has to be asked means we’re not finished yet. But soon it will be a question no one asks anymore, which is good.”THUMB thorsland


Asked what issues are most important to his constituents and it mirrors the national trend: jobs and immigration.


“From the gay-friendly community, what I’ve been reading about and hearing about is breaking down all these barriers,” said Thorsland. “But then you go to something like the hospital and you fill out admissions papers – married, single, widowed, divorced – they don’t have a place. And I don’t think it’s intentional discrimination yet, but the whole word’s paperwork has been built to a structure that is heterosexual.”


“So one of the things that I think would be really interesting is to float a bill early on, should I get elected, to take that non-intentional bias out of any paperwork like tax forms, hospital admissions – so either we have enough boxes, or the boxes go away,” Thorsland said.




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