Vernon Hills — Rep Carol Sente will not seek reelection to the House in 2018. She joins a long list of House members from both sides of the aisle to decide they’ve had enough.
In a recent interview the Illinois Channel did with former State Rep, Dwight Kay (R) [ who also serves on the Illinois Channel Board], he mentioned how he is hearing from a lot of former members in both parties, how they feel their ability to represent their districts is compromised by pressure from their party’s leaders.
In a similar vein, Rep Sente told the Daily Herald, “I think moderate legislators are getting lost and that troubles me,” Sente said. “Those of us in the middle, frankly, are drowning.”
Sente joined the House in 2009, replacing former Rep Kathy Ryg (D). She told the Daily Herald, she had planned on staying 8-12 years in the House. So arguably her leaving at this time is in line with her initial plans.
But there’s no question that the ability of House and Senate members to represent the interests of their districts, and vote independently of how their party leaders may wish, is increasingly difficult.
A major reason lawmakers are under pressure is the growing cost of running for office, which can easily run to $1,000,00 in districts where the cost of running TV ads in a major market may cost $3,000 to $6,000 for a 30 second ad.
If one votes against leadership — or the Governor — on a major piece of legislation, it may well mean you’re going to be cut off of the funds coming from the party, and have them run someone else against you.
With that pressure, and the growing frustration among lawmakers at their inability to get things done in a period when the state’s budget was held hostage for three years, many lawmakers will privately voice their frustration with the process and the on-going political battles between Gov Rauner and Speaker Madigan.
Among others who are leaving, or have recently left:
Sen Christine Radogno (R) – the Republican Senate Leader, resigned in June.
Rep Chad Hays (R)
Rep Barb Wheeler (R)
Rep Bob Pritchard (R)
Rep Patti Bellock (R)
Rep Elaine Nekritz (D)
Rep Mike Fortner (R)
Rep Steven Andersson (R)
Rep Bill Mitchell (R)
Rep Brandon Phelps (D) – resigned due to health issues
Rep Sara Wojcicki Jimenez (R)
Virtually all of these representatives, would be described as moderates. Their leaving, may well result in even more divergent views being brought to the House, which would make governing Illinois an even greater challenge, in a state that’s already been scarred by prolonged political battles, that lead to a three-year battle just to pass a budget, followed long struggle to pass a school funding bill that kept the legislature in working into September, when they’re normally supposed to wrap up their work at the end of May.
This too weighs on the mind of some lawmakers. Many are full-time legislators, who are deeply interested in representing their districts and can afford to support their families on the approximately $70,000 in annual compensation, plus the food and lodging allowance. But some can only afford to serve if they are free to also work in their other professions, such as a law practice. The unusual schedules of the legislature of late, makes that very difficult to manage an outside income.
And adding to the lawmakers angst, was the many months they went without any pay, as the state budget was not passed, and the Comptroller’s office, under Leslie Munger, placed legislators in the same boat as others around the state waiting to get paid.
One Chicago lawmaker took to driving for Uber, to make money to pay his bills. One Senator, with a stay-at-home wife, and three kids, had only $19,000 of income in 2015.
While a budget was passed over the Governor’s veto this summer, and money is again flowing to lawmakers, and to various schools and organizations in their districts. No one yet knows if 2018 will be another year when a budget deal is not reached.
For a growing number of lawmakers, they’ve grown too weary of this on-going political tug-of-war, that continues to hold Illinois’ future hostage.