Veteran Central Illinois lawmaker announces retirement from state senate

State Sen. Tom Bennett
State Sen. Tom Bennett(State Sen. Tom Bennett)
Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 6:07 PM CDT
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(25News Now) - A Central Illinois lawmaker, appointed in January to the state senate, announced he will not seek election to the job next year.

Sen. Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City) said he’s retiring when his term as senator from the 53rd District expires in January 2025.

Bennett represents a district that covers all or part of several area counties including Peoria, McLean, Tazewell, Woodford, Marshall, Putnam, Bureau and LaSalle Counties.

Republican Party chairs from the counties selected Bennett, a state representative at the time, to replace Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) who retired shortly after winning election to the newly drawn district in 2022.

Bennett was a member of the Illinois House from 2015 until joining the other chamber earlier this year.

“Serving in the General Assembly has been one of the most challenging, amazing and rewarding times in my life,” said Bennett in a prepared statement.

“The only way I know how to do this job is full-time, often six or seven days-a-week and my family and I have decided that after this term it is time to slow down,” Bennett said.

Bennett said he’s making his announcement now so the people he represents are “in the best position to elect a new leader.”

A former junior high and high school teacher, Bennett said education was one of his key focuses. He takes credit for passing multiple bipartisan education bills, specifically noting his work on addressing a teacher shortage in Illinois.

“It’s amazing what my staff has done over the last nine years for countless constituents across our district and our state to make a positive difference in people’s lives,” Sen. Bennett said.

“I am also grateful for my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the General Assembly – we come from different parts of the state, with different backgrounds, sometimes holding very different viewpoints, but we have tried to respect each other and work together on issues important to the people of Illinois,” Bennett said.

In the news release, Bennett made no mention whether his health had anything to do with his retirement plans. Bennett was hospitalized after two car crashes, one that happened in 2019 and the other in November of last year.

His nephew, Sen. Scott Bennett (D-Champaign), died last December from complications with an undetected brain tumor.