Metro-East News

Illinois Gov. Pritzker names Costello as head of IDNR law enforcement

Conservative Democratic state Reps. Jerry Costello II and Monica Bristow

With Democrats having a supermajority in the Illinois House, what does that mean for conservative Democrats Jerry Costello of Smithton and Monica Bristow of Godfrey? How much leverage do they have? How tough is it for them to push their views?
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With Democrats having a supermajority in the Illinois House, what does that mean for conservative Democrats Jerry Costello of Smithton and Monica Bristow of Godfrey? How much leverage do they have? How tough is it for them to push their views?

State Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, is leaving the state House of Representatives for an Illinois Department of Natural Resources position, the governor’s office announced.

Costello, son of former congressman Jerry Costello, has been appointed to director of Law Enforcement at the IDNR.

The appointment does not need to be confirmed by the state Senate, said Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office. Costello will earn $112,000 in his new job, Abudayyeh added.

“After serving his country in the battlefields of Iraq and the people of Southern Illinois in the statehouse, I’m thrilled Jerry Costello is continuing his public service by leading law enforcement at the Department of Natural Resources,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “His wide-ranging experience brings much value to an important piece of state government.”

Costello a conservative Democrat who was re-elected last year, resigned Tuesday as state representative in the 116th District. He has been in that position since 2011.

“It’s an honor to lead the dedicated group of men and women who keep Illinoisans safe while they enjoy our state’s natural resources,” Costello said. “I’m excited to start this new chapter, and I thank Gov. Pritzker for the opportunity to serve.”

Costello in 2018 faced a tough challenge from Republican David Friess. Costello won by 7 percentage points as Southern Illinois has increasingly voted for the GOP.

It was the first time Costello had been challenged for the seat since 2012, when he defeated Julie Bigham Eggers by 25 percentage points.

While in the House, Costello was a reliable conservative vote and faced a tough hill to climb push his priorities as Democrats hold a supermajority in the chamber with 74 out of the 118 seats.

Costello has been against going to a progressive income tax and legalizing marijuana both of which are two of Pritzker’s top priorities.

Costello also voted against minimum wage increase, which was approved by the legislature and signed by the governor in February.

The district includes all of Monroe and Randolph counties and parts of St. Clair and Perry counties. The Democratic Party chairmen from those counties have 30 days to vote on who will replace Costello, under state law. The vote will be weighted based on the number of votes Costello received in each county in the November election.

When that vote will take place is still unclear.

Kerry Johnson, the chairman of the Randolph County Democratic Central Committee, said he is still waiting on final details of the procedure, but hopes to have someone in Costello’s seat before the end of the session which is scheduled to end on May 31.

Johnson said whoever is selected will need to be someone who could handle criticism, especially in today’s political environment.

“Today we need someone with a tough skin for sure,” Johnson said.

Johnson however would not comment on whether there would be an effort to find a replacement who would vote for the governor’s agenda.

“That would be up to the individual we select,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t tell someone how to vote.”

Johnson also said he hasn’t heard of any specific names of people who could fill the seat.

“I’m sure there will several people that will put their name in the hat,” Johnson said.

In the state House, Costello chaired the Agriculture and Conservation committee.

Costello graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and served during Operation Desert Storm as part of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.

After Costello’s military service he worked as a police officer. He eventually became an assistant police chief.

This story has been corrected to reflect whether Costello’s position needs to be confirmed by the state Senate.

Joseph Bustos is the state affairs and politics reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, where he strives to hold elected officials accountable and provide context to decisions they make. He has won multiple awards from the Illinois Press Association for coverage of sales tax referendums.


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