Once a decade the political landscape shifts as the legislative
districts are redrawn to represent population changes in the census
Voters have more than 14 months until they will decide
the fate of 177 state lawmakers, but some legislators are taking
their political futures into their own hands.
Some legislators have announced bids for re-election in a new
district; others, like state Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, are
seeking higher office with a run for U.S. Congress. But some members
of the General Assembly, facing an election in unfamiliar territory,
are bowing out of public life.
Former state Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, retired from the
Legislature in 2010 after serving there since 1986. He had moved his
way up to Republican leadership in the Illinois House, was outspoken
during debates and survived three remaps, two of which the Democrats
Every election after a redistricting finds lawmakers doing some
soul-searching about whether they want to continue serving their
constituents, Black said. A district's voting history and likely
opponents in the primary and general elections factor into an
incumbent's decision to seek re-election, he said.
Lawmakers contemplate "things as esoteric as 'How many parades
will you have now on a Fourth of July?' Maybe in your old district,
you only had two; maybe in the new district, you'll have five; and
in rural districts, they expect you to be there," Black said. "A lot
of people say, 'I don't want to do that. I don't want to add 125
square miles of new territory.'"
Pronouncements from legislators are coming down on a regular
basis, indicating that they want to avoid the gauntlet of another
campaign season. Stalwarts like state Rep. Ron Stephens,
R-Greenville, and state Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, resigned
before their tenure was ended.
State Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said he won't be seeking
re-election under the new map in 2012, after being placed in the
same legislative district as fellow Republican Sen. Sam McCann.
New territory is one of the chief reasons Bomke said he is not
running. Changes to his insurance business have called for more
time, which means less time to attend Fourth of July parades and
learn a whole new district, Bomke said.
Bomke has served in the General Assembly since 1995 and has
survived one round of redistricting following the 2000 census. The
district Bomke would have to campaign in now stretches from
Springfield to the Mississippi River, a 100-mile drive, or about
double the width of Bomke's current district.
"Ten years ago, I probably would not have even questioned it. I
would have (run again). ... I believe that you have to be committed
to being in your district consistently, and that means doing 10
things on a Saturday, perhaps 10 things on a Sunday through the
district," Bomke said.
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Former state Sen. Gary Dahl, R-Granville, announced his
resignation earlier this year even before the new maps were drawn.
"I would not have run in 2012 regardless of (whether) the
Republicans won the governor's seat (in the 2010 election) and
controlled the remap," Dahl said.
At the age of 70, Dahl said his main reason for retiring was that
he wanted to slow down. But Dahl said Springfield's form of
pestilent politics was another major reason.
The less politically glamorous fact of redistricting is that in
order to be re-elected, lawmakers would have to move to another
district. That could mean enrolling their children in new school
districts, leaving friends and neighbors, and trying to sell a house
in the depressed real estate market.
This is the time when candidates start holding events to raise
cash for the upcoming campaign, but don't be surprised if a lawmaker
holds a different kind of event -- a retirement party, Black said.
"I think you'll see a lot of people in the next month decide not
to run," he said.
Statehouse News; By ANDREW THOMASON]