Mr. Smith goes to Springfield?

By Katie O'Connell

At just 21 years old, he seems like an unlikely candidate for state representative. Yet this fact doesn’t bother Frank Calabrese, a senior in LAS, who has just hit the campaign trail vying for a seat in Springfield.

Despite his latest political endeavor, Calabrese said he does not consider himself to be the typical politician.

“I’ve always been a history buff and a news buff, and I guess that’s just the natural progression,” Calabrese said. “I’ve never considered myself a big political guy, but if you follow the news and you’re interested in history, you just naturally get into it.”

His interest in running for state representative for the 103rd district came early in his junior year after talking to state rep. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet), who Calabrese said encouraged him to run under the Republican ticket.

After a bid for Illinois Student Senate president fell short in April, Calabrese turned his attention to the state representative position, but he wasn’t able to begin campaigning until recently.

Champaign firefighter Pat Devaney filed a complaint about Calabrese’s candidacy, claiming that he had not filed the necessary documents in time. On May 30, the Champaign County Electoral board denied the objection, a move that officially put Calabrese on the ballot.

“It was a good thing,” Calabrese said about the trial. “It helped establish my credibility. The Democrats threw everything they got at me.”

Central to Calabrese’s campaign is the University of Illinois, which he said has gotten “the short end of the stick” when it comes to funding. Calabrese critiqued his opponent, Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, saying she hasn’t done an adequate job lobbying for funds for the University.

Jakobsson disagreed, citing her work as vice-chairperson of the Higher Education Committee and as a member of the Elementary and Secondary Education Appropriations, Higher Education Appropriations as signs of her commitment to the University.

She added that Calabrese’s age is a sign that he may be inexperienced in politics.

“I think he had to let people know what his qualifications are, and they can decide whether he’s qualified,” said Jakobsson, who has served in the General Assembly since 2002. “That’s not for me to determine.”

Calabrese feels that his age could work to his benefit. Calabrese said that “politicians, more than anyone else, need to be held accountable,” and that his youthful outlook could provide a fresh voice in Springfield.

“Just the tone of politics in this state is very depressing, and people are very receptive to me running because they believe that I’m doing this for the right reasons and frankly a lot of people are in politics for the wrong reason,” Calabrese said.

With the summer to start his campaign, Calabrese said he is relying on an arsenal of volunteers to support him.

Financially backed by donations, he also receives aid from volunteers who are currently working by stuffing envelopes, walking door-to-door to distribute information and completing other such tasks.

One of these volunteers is Champaign Mayor Gerald Schweighart, who has worked with Calabrese on various issues with the Champaign City Council.

“He seems like a very bright, very intelligent young man,” Schweighart said.

With the aid of his volunteers and several University professors who offer him guidance on issues such as the economy, Calabrese said that his position as a student and his position in politics would be manageable.

“Well, obviously I’m probably not going to get a 4.0, but school is very important to me,” Calabrese said. “I’ll do it by getting good help.”