CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — After a close race for Illinois’ 17th Congressional District, we’re hearing for the first time from the race’s winner.

Democratic Congressman-elect Eric Sorensen defeated Republican Esther Joy King by roughly three and a half percentage points.

Sorensen, a former TV meteorologist, is setting his sights on Washington now.

He tells WMBD’s Matt Sheehan about his first steps in Congress.

“A lot is going to go into the next Farm Bill because it is going to last so long,” Sorensen said. “So we’re going to have to make sure that everyone is included here. When we talk about the Farm Bill, it’s making sure the investment is there in something like the Lock & Dam system on the Illinois and Mississippi River, to make sure the commodities can get to the world market.”

The river system is a driving force in central Illinois’ economy. Sorensen said he’s going to advocate for upgrades in the Lock & Dam system.

“We need to make sure we’re pushing through as much as we can. They need to be 1,200 foot Locks. That’s an important thing we have to advocate for in the next Farm Bill,” he said.

Sorensen’s swearing in will be in January. He will replace the retiring Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17). Sorensen said his first goal moving forward is to build relationships with his constituents.

“That’s not for me to be successful, that’s for our region to be successful,” Sorensen said. “It’s about getting the work done and getting someone in Washington to be working on our behalf.”

Sorensen said while the economy is changing, central Illinois needs to invest in sustainable jobs.

“As more electric vehicles are going out on the road, we’re going to need a better electric infrastructure to power these vehicles,” he said. “Much like in the Industrial Revolution. We built up the ability for us to gas up our cars. We’re going to need that infrastructure here. That also means good-paying jobs, good-paying union jobs here in central Illinois.”

While Illinois pursues a more sustainable future, many Illinoisans have been worried about the closures of coal plants and the loss of jobs. Sorensen said there need to be other positions ready if jobs are going to be cut.

“I certainly believe we need to make sure that as jobs move away, that there is another opportunity. That’s critical for the viability of our large communities and small towns,” Sorensen said. “We need someone that is going to work to invest in our smaller communities to make sure that as we change our economy, we aren’t leaving people out. That is Congress’ job.”

Sorensen said there is not a “silver bullet” to solving climate issues, but there are steps that can be taken to make a positive difference.

“That’s where it’s important to have someone with the understanding in the science, but with the background of communicating it. It’s a step-by-step basis, it’s not an all in thing,” Sorensen said.

Sorensen won the election by a slim margin, roughly 3-4%. When asked about how he’s going to be a champion for both sides of the aisle, here’s what he had to say.

“I love the fact that this isn’t a blue district or a red district, it’s a purple district. We have people on both sides of the aisle with differing opinions. I think that’s wonderful. That means we have more opportunities to talk with one another. That allows us to not make as many wrong decisions,” Sorensen said. “What I want to be able to do from this point forward, is to be able to work for the people that didn’t vote for me the same as I will work for the people that did. That’s something we should all expect from our elected leaders.”

Sorensen said when it comes to partisan politics, the will of the people in Illinois’ 17th Congressional district should outweigh what the Party wants.

“Every piece of legislation may not be the thing that I personally agree is best, but if the people of IL-17 say ‘this is what we want,’ I’m going to go to Washington and fulfill that,” Sorensen said.

Sorensen said he did not speak with challenger Esther Joy King after the election, but she did contact the Sorensen campaign to concede.

“She reached out to my campaign manager, early in the morning, the following morning,” Sorensen said. “She offered her concession. From that point forward, we need to move forward.”