Watch now: Decatur native enters race for 13th congressional district | Government and politics

SPRINGFIELD — A lawyer with deep Decatur family roots is seeking the Republican nomination for the open seat in the 13th congressional district.

Jesse Reising, a former Eisenhower standout football player, launched his candidacy Thursday, becoming the first Republican to enter the race.

The district was drawn by Springfield Democrats, who controlled last year’s redistricting process, with surgical precision, stretching from the eastern metro area near St. Louis to Champaign-Urbana, taking up the urban cores of Springfield and Decatur in between.

The district was drawn to a Democrat – it was won by President Joe Biden by a margin of about 11 points in 2020.

This effort “to try to impose one of the establishment insiders on us” is a major motivating factor for Reising’s candidacy, he said.

“I saw the gerrymander and it offended me because I know the politics of the Madigan machine establishment does not represent the people of central and southern Illinois,” Reising told Herald & Review in an interview Friday afternoon.

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“So I’m a sixth generation son of Decatur and it’s the community that made me the man that I am, and made me so grateful for all that this country has to offer that I’ve tried to do everything I can since come back,” he continued.

Reising’s story is one of overcoming adversity.

Overcoming obstacles: Jesse Reising busy writing his success story

In the last game of his senior season playing football for Yale University in 2010, Reising, the team’s starting linebacker, tore two nerves in his neck attempting to tackle another player.

The injury cost him some movement in his right arm and cost him his dream of serving in the US Marine Corps.

But Reising found another way to serve — first as a civilian contractor in Afghanistan, where he spent five months in 2011.

He went on to found a non-profit organization that helps equip the military with the tools to succeed in higher education. He later served as a federal prosecutor and most recently worked as an associate at Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis.

Reising’s nomination paper, filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission, did not list an address, just a Decatur PO box.

Although he has lived in Chicago for the past few years, Reising said he currently rents in Decatur and is in the process of buying a house there.

Reising’s family has been in Macon County since the late 1830s, later operating the Orlando Hotel in downtown Decatur. Reising’s father was a grain processor for Archer Daniels Midland.


Jesse Reising when he played for the Eisenhower Panthers in Decatur.

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Although common in a Democratic-leaning district, Reising considers himself a traditional conservative and believes his message will resonate, saying that “a lot of voters in this district are Republicans, they just don’t know it.”

He pointed to Republican Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race as a model, as the Commonwealth and 13th District voted for Biden by a similar margin. The president’s low approval ratings will also help, he said.

“Americans are already 7% poorer this year due to soaring inflation, our children are brainwashed to believe they are either oppressors or victims, China is stealing our intellectual property and good paying jobs that go with (and) crime rates skyrocket,” Reising said.

“So I’m running for Congress to take us back to the first principles that made us great — and those are limited government, free enterprise, and individual responsibility,” Reising said.

There are currently two Democrats vying for the seat: Nikki Budzinski, a former top official in the administrations of President Joe Biden and Governor JB Pritzker who moved to Springfield late last year; and David Palmer, a former basketball player and Champaign financial consultant.

Budzinski garnered more endorsements and raised more money in between.

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