Republican John Shimkus announced Friday he will not seek his 13th term to the United States House of Representatives, ending his long career in Washington in January 2021.
“As Illinois candidates begin to circulate petitions next week, now is the time for me to announce that I will not be seeking re-election,” he said in a press release.
Shimkus has worked with four United States presidents: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
“It has been the honor of my lifetime to be asked by the people of Illinois to represent them in our nation’s capitol,” said Shimkus. “Each day I have tried to do this as best as I possibly could, and my success lies squarely at the feet of my incredible staff in Illinois and Washington, DC.”
Shimkus easily won his 12th term in November 2018 against Kevin Gaither of Sullivan by collecting 72 percent of the vote. He first took his seat in January 1997.
When he first sought the office he vowed to serve only 12 years, setting a six-term limit on himself. However, reports in 2005 by the Associated Press said the Republican party’s top leaders urged him to break that pledge.
“I will leave the political field knowing that I have served honorably and, with the help of many, accomplished a lot for my constituents, our state, and our nation,” Shimkus said in the release.
John W. Hursey Jr. of Collinsville recently announced he has filed the papers needed with the Federal Elections Commission to seek the seat as a Democrat. The 38-year-old Hursey says he has been involved in politics for much of his life, volunteering for various organizations, including Barack Obama’s campaign. However this is his first time running for office.
Friday’s announcement is sure to produce a field of Republican candidates for the 15th District seat that stretches across much of central and southern Illinois.
Effingham County Board Chairman Jim Niemann, a Republican, said Friday that he spent time in Washington, DC last week. He commented about Shimkus’ seniority in Congress.
“I was impressed with the level of experience and seniority that he has in Congress,” said Niemann. “He’s like No. 58 out of the 435 there.”
Niemann said he’s confident some good people will seek his seat.
“We won’t have quite as much access as before, but I’m confident we will have some good people from this district to represent us,” said Niemann.
Rob Arnold, Central Committee Chairman for the Republican Party in Effingham County, said Shimkus’ decision will make for a “wide open” race in Nov. 3, 2020.
“We hope we can get the strongest candidate and put them into office again,” said Arnold. “(Shimkus) always made himself available. He’s represented us well. While we are sad to see him step down, we’re looking forward to see what some new blood can do.”
Dave Seiler, vice chairman of the Effingham County Democratic Central Committee, said he has mixed feelings about the announcement.
“On one hand, I’m not surprised, but also he had indicated he would run again,” said Seiler. “It’s been a reliably conservative district for him — and easy to win.”
Seiler said Shimkus isn’t the first Republican to pull out and not seek re-election in the upcoming election.
“There are some serious problems on the Republican side and a long line of Republicans not seeking re-election,” said Seiler. “Maybe it’s just not fun to be in the minority.”
Constituent Dallas Buzzard, who considers himself “mostly Republican,” said Shimkus was in office “too long.”
“I don’t really see anything that he’s done, or at least no major accomplishments that I’m aware of, anyway,” said Buzzard, of Beecher City. “I lost respect for him during the campaign against Kyle McCarter. His campaign put out many untruths about McCarter.”
Shimkus said in a radio interview with St. Louis’ KMOX that at 61 years of age, it was time to turn the page and begin a new chapter.
“I’m not sure what I’ll do, but I’ll have more time at home with my wife,” said Shimkus. “We’ll still be involved in our nation, our state and our church.”
“Serving in Congress has been a blessing, but it has also been a sacrifice for my wife Karen, and our boys,” said Shimkus. “Now young men, David, Joshua and Daniel continue to make me proud. I regret the times I have been away from the four of them and thank them for their constant love and support.”
He continued, “My family and I thank you for allowing us the honor to serve. Our dedication to our country, our state, our church, and our community will not waiver as we embark on the next chapter of life. God bless you, and God bless America.”
Among his duties in Congress, he is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Republican Leader of its Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee. He also serves on the Health and Communications and Technology Subcommittees; the NG9-1-1, Recycling, Coal, Steel and Baltic Caucuses; and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents, according to his website.
He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, in 1980. He has been active duty Army and Army Reserves. He retired from the Army after 28 years of service at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on June 1, 2008.