State Sen. Mike Frerichs running for Illinois treasurer

By Eleanor Black

State Sen. Michael Frerichs, D-52, officially announced his candidacy for state treasurer last week in a series of events held throughout the state, saying he sees room for improvement regarding investments in Illinois companies, infrastructure, and education.

Frerichs will not face a challenge in the March 18 primary, though two Republican candidates have already announced that they are running for the position vacated by Republican Dan Rutherford, who is running for governor. If elected, Frerichs, who served on the Champaign County Board and as the Champaign County auditor for four years before becoming a state senator, would be the first person from Champaign County to hold a statewide executive position in more than 50 years. His election would also add some geographical diversity to the state’s executives.

“Diversity in our elected office is a good thing. You should have diversity in gender, ethnicity and geography because they all bring different perspectives to public service,” he said. “In terms of the Democratic party, it has been a long time since there’s been a downstate, statewide elected official.”

The state treasurer is in charge of college savings plans, such as Bright Start and Bright Directions, and Frerichs has ideas on how to help students across the state make plans regarding their education.

“The treasurer can do two things better: One, to make sure that we’re lowering fees paid on those savings plans, and that we have good, safe investments so that parents are able to afford college,” Frerichs said. “Two, you can use the treasurer’s office to talk to students and parents of the need to start saving for college, and to use the treasurer’s office as a bully pulpit to talk about an important issue.”

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He added that student debt is not just an issue for those graduating, but also for the state as a whole. With total student loan debt in the United States surpassing $1 trillion, Frerichs said the economy is being slowed down because graduates are unable to move out of their parents’ homes, buy a car or start a family because of their college debt.

In another effort to aid students, Frerichs would also focus on financial literacy. He cited the issue of new college students being targeted by credit card companies, which has led to significant credit card debt, in addition to the student loan debt. Frerichs said the treasurer’s office can play a better role in making sure students, like those who are out on their own for the first time, have all the skills and knowledge needed to be better with their money.

Jaclyn Gelfond, president of the Illini Democrats and junior in LAS, said Frerichs has worked closely with the registered student organization during his career as state senator. 

“He had meetings on campus about college affordability and what students can do to make sure that they can afford to go to college, with finding the right loans and scholarships and trying to keep those costs down,” she said.

Gelfond added that in addition to thinking about the needs of all people in Illinois, coming from a district that is home to the University will help Frerichs continue to think about the needs of the younger generation.

“I know that it is something he’s worked on in the past, and I’m sure he will continue to think about in the future,” she said.

Frerichs said, though the state has challenges, he sees a positive future ahead. 

“I am looking forward to helping push us in the right direction as state treasurer,” he said. “The treasurer’s office does not have a lot of responsibilities, but if we have someone in there with experience, who is serious about doing those responsibilities well, we can have an impact in improving this state.”

Eleanor can be reached at [email protected].