News Local/State

After Taking The Weekend To Reconsider Retirement, Shimkus Confirms He Won’t Run In 2020

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, in the WILL Radio studios in Urbana last April. Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, has made up his mind on a 2020 re-election bid. He’s staying out.

In August of this year, Shimkus announced he would not seek another term. However, when U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced he would not run again, Shimkus started having second thoughts.

Walden’s announcement opened up the possibility Shimkus, who was first elected in 1996, could become the top Republican on that committee. The opportunity led to him reconsider retirement from Congress.

Shimkus spent the weekend discussing with his family whether to run.

“After weighing the pros and cons, I have decided to reaffirm my plan to retire,” Shimkus said, in a statement posted on his Facebook page. “I look forward to finishing the 116th Congress with my colleagues. Despite all the angst displayed daily, members of the committee are working diligently on some bipartisan compromises. If we are successful, they could very well find their way to the President’s desk for his signature.”

In recent weeks, Shimkus had his named pulled off of President Trump’s re-election campaign supporters list, citing the decision to pull troops out of northern Syria. He says he still supports the president’s domestic agenda.

Shimkus would have had a competitive primary in the heavily Republican district.

Other Republican candidates started announcing their campaigns to replace Shimkus in the 15th Congressional District, including Alex Walker, from Mattoon; Lori L. Fuller, from Highland; John Bambenek, from Champaign; Mary Miller, from Oakland; and Kerry Wolff, from Altamont.

Walker appeared ready to take on Shimkus.

“(I) Look forward to running against him if he decides to run,” Walker said on Twitter. The Illinois 15th “deserves a true conservative. Congressman. Shimkus pulled his support for the President, but now is trying to retract for a position. He’s a NeverTrumper part of the Washington Establishment. We can do better.”

Miller, whose husband, Chris, is a state representative, raised more than $100,000 on the day she formally announced her bid for congress.

State Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, confirmed he was considering a run for the seat, but has yet to announce a decision.

But Shimkus would have had a war chest if he decided to run.

According to Federal Elections Commission records, Shimkus’ campaign committee had more than $997,000 cash on hand as of Sept. 30.

John W. Hursey, Jr. from Collinsville and Kevin Gaither, from Charleston have announced campaigns on the Democratic side.

Signatures to get on the ballot can be filed with the state Board of Elections starting on Nov. 25. The last day to file is Dec. 2.

In the 15th Congressional District, a Republican candidate needs to gather at least 1,373 valid voter signatures to make the March 17 primary ballot. The winners of the primary go on to the November 2020 general election.

The district covers southeastern Illinois to the Kentucky and Indiana borders, as well as a portion of the Metro East suburbs of St. Louis, including Collinsville, where Shimkus lives. In east-central Illinois, the 15th District includes Rantoul, Danville, Mattoon and Charleston. But the portion of southwest Champaign County that includes Champaign-Urbana is carved out and placed in the adjoining 13th District. 

Joseph Bustos is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio, which is a member of Illinois Public Radio.