Longtime Congressman Bobby Rush announces retirement

Longtime Congressman Bobby Rush announces retirement


Chicagoland Congressman Bobby Rush announced his retirement on Tuesday, ending a 30-year run in the House. The longtime lawmaker is the 24th House Democrat to either retire or run for another office in the 2022 midterm election cycle. 

During his remarks at the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago, the location of Emmett Till’s funeral, Rush said spending more time with his grandchildren and in his role as a Chicago pastor were big factors in his decision.

“Many times over the last decade I have not been present with my family because of my mission. But we were always together in spirit, which made my mission possible,” he said. “You can own public service but you can never own public office. And I want to be crystal clear — I am not retiring, I am returning. I will remain in public life, fighting for equity and justice for and within my community.”

He said the political outlook for House Democrats in 2022 was not a factor in his decision.

“In the 30 years I’ve served — please don’t make the argument that I am cutting and running. I have made my life running to the fire, not from the fire,” he said. 

While the large number of departures among his colleagues signals some political peril for the party heading into the 2022 elections, Rush’s 1st District been held by a Democrat since 1935.

His deep blue, majority-Black seat that encompasses a bulk of South Side Chicago and its southwest suburbs will be open for the first time in decades. Rush said he will make an endorsement for his replacement in the next few weeks. 

Gun violence activist Jahmal Cole and pastor Chris Butler were already challenging Rush for this seat. State Senator Elgie Sims could also jump into the race. 

Rush began his political career as an activist: he co-founded the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers and recruited Fred Hampton, the chapter’s chairman who was killed in a police raid in 1969. A police raid at Rush’s house resulted in an illegal firearms charge and he served six months in prison. 

In 1983, he served as an alderman on the Chicago City Council before beating incumbent Democratic Representative Charles Hayes in a 1992 Congressional Democratic primary. 

He’s held the seat since then and was the only person ever to beat former President Obama in an election, brushing off his primary challenge in 2000 by 31 points. Rush encouraged and backed Obama for his 2008 presidential campaign. 

Throughout his career, Rush has been outspoken about police brutality, gun violence and civil rights. 

He introduced a bill in 2020 to establish federally mandated policing standards. In 2012, he was escorted from the House floor after wearing a hoodie in honor of Trayvon Martin. During protests and riots that summer, his campaign office was used inappropriately by Chicago police officers — resulting in a dozen suspensions. 

A subcommittee Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rush has repeatedly pushed for funding to replace lead pipes and secure safe drinking water in Illinois. 

He authored the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act to make lynching a federal hate crime. In 2020, the bill passed the House but was stopped in the Senate. Rush said he would try to get it passed before the end of his term. 

“I am not leaving the battlefield. I am going to be an activist as long as I’m here in the land of the living, and I will be making my voice heard in the public realm,” Rush, a 75-year-old, said. 


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