Meet Kristopher Tharp, New Illinois State Senator for District 56
A committee of Democratic party leaders from Madison, St. Clair and Jersey counties announced who will replace State Sen. Rachelle Aud Crowe in the 56th District after she resigns.
Capt. Kristopher Tharp, of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, was sworn in Friday as the area’s newest senator until Crowe’s term ends.
The mandate ends on January 11, 2023, when the new General Assembly is sworn in. Tharp is also expected to be the committee’s choice to run for the 56th district seat in the Nov. 8 general election, according to Madison County Democrat Randy Harris. party president. They have until July 25 to announce their nomination in the ballot.
Crowe resigned from the State Senate to take up a position as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.
The 56th District includes parts of Madison, St. Clair, and Jersey counties.
Tharp grew up in Wood River and has 25 years of law enforcement experience, including serving as a jail administrator for the Sheriff’s Office and as deputy commander of Greater St. Louis Major Case Squad today. (He said he plans to continue working in those roles while serving voters in the 56th District.)
“In my 25 years of policing, I have just been immersed in the district, whether fighting for victims of violent crime with Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis or advocating for the elderly with Madison County Triad,” Tharp said after the swearing-in.
“Every path in my career, every path in my life has led to this point and the chance to champion and fight for this district that raised me, the district that invested in me, is just a huge honor and it’s something I’m excited to be able to do.
The committee that selected Tharp was made up of Democratic party chairmen from each county: Harris of Madison County, Robert Sprague of St. Clair County and Mark Pohlman of Jersey County.
They announced his appointment Friday morning at a meeting in Wood River, just three blocks from Tharp’s childhood home.
Tharp was the only eligible candidate to apply for the job, according to Harris. He said another person had applied, but lived outside the district boundaries.
Harris added that he thinks Tharp will be “a fighter” for the district.
What are the important issues for the new state senator from the 56th district?
Tharp said Friday that one of the issues that matters most to him is crime. To address this, he said the region needs a “healthy and supported law enforcement community”.
Tharp said some of the challenges for law enforcement are recruitment and retention.
“We absolutely have to support our law enforcement,” Tharp said. “We need to make sure they have the resources they need to do their job. People who live in this neighborhood need to feel safe in their homes, to feel safe in the community, to feel safe going out shopping and visiting restaurants.
“This area cannot thrive if it doesn’t have healthy police, if it doesn’t have a sustained police force. This neighborhood supports its police, and we will continue to do so.
Tharp said education, including trade school opportunities for students, is another issue close to his heart. He also said he knows people struggle with higher costs on a daily basis.
“We have to work on cost reduction,” he said. “How do we do that? We have to buy American. We have to buy Illinois products. We have to make sure that our infrastructure in that district is strong and can support the kind of industry that will help keep costs down.
“We have tremendous assets in this district,” Tharp added. “We have a wonderful port district on the river. We have tons of warehouses, tons of highways. We have the rail system. We need to make sure that all of these can meet the demand that will be needed to get produce to families in this district when they need it, with the goal of making sure they have what they need and lower prices.
Another issue in the 56th District is the possible loss of nearly 1,000 jobs at the Granite City Steel Mill. This summer, the steel mill’s owner, United States Steel Corp., announced plans to halt steel production at the plant and sell two blast furnaces.
“We’re going to fight for the workers out there who have been punched,” Tharp said. “US Steel should do better because of the men and women who have kept this company profitable for all these years. The men and women who work in this steel mill are the cornerstone of this community.
“…They deserve better and we’re going to do everything we can to make them better.”
This story was originally published July 8, 2022 11:49 a.m.