By Matt Hawkins
Two 2018 State House races will feature hopefuls who found their passions in Peoria. Bradley alumna Amber Huett-Garcia ’08 is running in Tennessee’s 86th District while Jason Blumenthal ’16 is seeking Illinois’ 63rd District seat.
The aspiring leaders shared their perspectives at the Restoring America’s Democracy symposium hosted by Bradley’s Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service and the Dirksen Congressional Center. The event showed prospective public servants how to work through challenges in the political system.
Both candidates decided to run after watching dialogue break down in state and national halls of power.
“I’ve known for a couple years this was a path I was taking,” Huett-Garcia, a Democrat, said. “It’s a good mix of opportunities and my passions. I believe I can listen to people and influence policy to make people’s lives better.”
Blumenthal, a Republican, believed younger politicians have a stronger will than party superiors to work past Illinois’ partisan battles.
“Why not run?” Blumenthal said. “My generation will be able to fix the state because we know how to relate to others. If we stay on the sideline too long, it may be too hard to fix the state.”
Both candidates discovered political interests as Bradley students. Huett-Garcia, who double-majored in political science and journalism, credited IPL executive director Brad McMillan for her interest in public policy. She earned an internship through the institute and worked on State Sen. David Koehler’s 2006 campaign.
She worked on behind-the-scenes policy and budget analysis in Illinois after graduation, then spent four years working with Teach For America in Memphis.
“Bradley allowed me to be around people who believed in me before I believed in myself,” Huett-Garcia said. “Working with a bipartisan policy institute changed the way I engaged as a young adult, and that defined my career path.”
Blumenthal gravitated toward community service as a political science and economics double major. He joined the Fellows service organization, won leadership positions on Student Senate and ran for school board in his hometown of Johnsburg, Ill.
“There’s something about the atmosphere at Bradley that encourages you to be involved in the community,” he said. “Bradley has such a strong history of leaders who have cared about the world around them.”
Bradley University has a rich history of alumni who have modeled bipartisan, civil leadership in public service like U.S. House Minority Leader Bob Michel '48, U.S Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood '71, Congresswoman Robin Kelly '77 and State Representative Mike Unes '96.
"I am very confident that Amber and Jason will make outstanding public servants who will forge bipartisan relationships to solve key public policy issues,” McMillan said.