By CARL GREEN
Belleville – It’s been 18 years – since 1995 – that anyone other than James Clayborne Jr. has represented the Belleville-East St. Louis region in the Illinois Senate, and since 2009, Clayborne has been the Senate’s second highest ranking Democrat as Senate Majority Leader.
But that era is quickly drawing to a close. Clayborne chose not to seek re-election this year and did not enter the Senate 57th District primary. He plans to focus on his law practice.
The Democrat-dominated district covers much of St. Clair County and reaches up into Madison County, including East St. Louis, Belleville, Fairview Heights, O’Fallon, Swansea, Madison and a section of Granite City.
Seeking to replace Clayborne in the November general election is Christopher Belt, a long-time probation officer who grew up in a union construction family in Centreville.
“I was born into the union, guys, it’s not a script,” Belt told the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council at its April meeting. “When I tell you I believe in collective bargaining, I believe in collective bargaining.”
Belt said he wants to maintain the 57th District Senate seat as a strong counterweight to Governor Bruce Rauner’s anti-union agenda.
“We have a governor who’s pushing right-to-work zones,” he said. “For his fiscal year 2019, he wants to take the benefit package out of collective bargaining. This is important, and so I wanted to come and talk to you guys. I know you will get out the vote, I know you will support us, but it means something to say you have met the candidate and that you talked to the candidate and vice versa.”
Belt’s father, Curtis Belt, had a construction company and was a member of Operating Engineers Local 520, and three of Belt’s brothers worked in the local. Another brother is a plumber, and his sister has been in the Fraternal Order of Police for 27 years.
Having run unopposed in the primary, Belt is now getting his campaign together, with paid staff starting this month, and is seeking to raise money. His website, christopherbeltforsenate.com, is up and running and he can be reached by email at email@example.com or call (618) 580-2683 or mail to P.O. Box 74, Belleville, IL, 62222.
Belt graduated from Lincoln High School in 1990, earned a history degree at Illinois State University, a master’s in public administration from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and a master’s in counseling from Lindenwood College-Belleville. He has been married for 21 years to Stephanie Scurlock-Belt, and their daughter Christianna attends Spelman College in Atlanta while their son Stephon goes to Robert Morris College in Chicago.
HELPING YOUNG OFFENDERS
Belt worked for 16 years in the St. Clair County Probation and Detention department and was a parole administrator for the state for two years, among other positions involving probation, juvenile detention and home monitoring. He has emphasized helping young offenders successfully complete their parole or probation, having founded the group Difference Makers for that purpose in 2003 and writing a character education book in 2008, “The Adventures of Nate the Gnat,” to show young readers how to be responsible citizens.
For the past four years, he has served on the Cahokia School Board, including as president for the past two, stressing accountability to the public.
• Education – access to fully funded, quality education.
• Safety – especially in neighborhoods and communities.
• Jobs – providing dependable, family-sustaining jobs.
• Health care – providing access to health care that is both affordable and exceptional.
Belt faces a Republican opponent, Tanya Hildenbrand of Belleville, a corporate analyst and Air Force Reserve intelligence officer who defeated noted racist radio host Bob Romanik in the primary.