Senator Rick Winkel, a Republican from Champaign County, announced today that he is not running for re-election. This article in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette spells it out.
This is a shocker.
Senator Winkel is one of the best GOP legislators, pushing for an end to locally-funded schools where wealthy areas get good teachers and low tax rates while poor areas get bad teachers and high tax rates. He also pushed for good process reforms and was one of the more accessible legislators. He'll be missed.
His race for re-election was shaping up to be the most hotly-contested battle in the state. Champaign County Auditor Mike Frerichs is the presumptive Democratic nominee. Now that the race is an open seat, things are looking much better for Frerichs.
The two state reps from the district are Naomi Jakobbson (a D) and Bill Black (an R). It's unlikely that Bill Black will run for the Senate as he is the unofficial floor leader of the House Republicans and seems to enjoy the House more than the average legislator.
Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden (also a blogger -- check it out here) might run for the race as a thoughtful guy and a fierce Republican partisan.
This is going to be a huge race and it makes a veto-proof Senate majority in 2006 more likely.