Schakowsky Takes a Pass on Senate Seat, Impacts other Elections

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9) announced today that she is forgoing a run for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Obama, now occupied by the blighted Roland Burris.  In a video announcement she told viewers she would stick with House seat and continue serving the various leadership positions she reeled off.  Showing great humility, Rep. Schakowsky even said that she would have no problem raising close to $30 million she thinks it would take to win the primary and the general election for the Senate seat.

Given that Schakowsky is now out of the race, Ramsin Canon at Gapers Block points out this leaves State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (and his Bright Start mess) as the only Democrat who has decided to run.  Chris Kennedy of the Merchandise Mart is the other big Dem still left undecided.

Schakowsky’s entrance in the Senate race would have caused a ripple effect impacting so many elections.  No doubt a host of names, possibly various state reps and state senators, would have stepped up for the 9th District seat.  Those elected officials who would have subsequently thrown their hat in the ring would see various candidates or other local elected officials bid for their state seats, and so on.  Clearly, Schakowsky’s decision not to run for Senate saved a lot of election activity.

But is that a good thing?  Schakowsky has served for 10 years in her seat and her predecessor served 48 years in that seat.  I question whether it is keeping with progressive values for one person to dominate a single elected congressional seat for so long.  Nobody will challenge, let alone defeat Schakowsky, as long as she stays continues to serve and run for that seat.

Maybe it would have been a good thing if Schakowsky tried her luck for the US Senate.  Here in state politics, the Illinois Reform Commission has put forth a proposal on term limits.  That was largely rejected by Illinois state leaders.  But many in Illinois support the commission’s position that term limits are a good thing for a health democracy.

Progressivism, which I’ve discussed before and which is a term I believe has been hijacked from its original meaning, is something that Schakowsky has self-annointed.  True progressivism is a belief in accelerated change and more direct democracy.  But with one person serving in a seat for so long, that reality seems at odds with progressive values.

4 responses to “Schakowsky Takes a Pass on Senate Seat, Impacts other Elections

  1. Term limits, no term limits. I can see both sides and won’t reiterate them all here. A challenger taking on the champion in sports has to go above and beyond to win, and so does a political challenger if he or she is to effectively challenge an incumbent official, but I think there are other ways to give a challenger a better chance at taking on the status quo besides term limits. We can make the playing field a little more level. Greater transparency in government will allow media and citizens greater insight into the workings of our governing bodies, administration and behavior of our elected officials. Improved FOIA regulations could assist in greater transparency is a start. That will allow media and other citizens a better chance to learn what they need to know, get a clearer peek at what is going on inside government, but that said, a more engaged public and fourth estate need to step up, plus experts in media and community building and organizing need to help them do that. The public has ways to push harder, demand more and be clearer about its needs. We all can take greater responsibility.

    • Jesse Greenberg

      Thanks for your comments, Karen. I especially agree with the idea that an engaged public willing to hold elected officials accountable is the real key to ensuring transparency.

  2. Karen’s makes a lot of valid points including the unfortunate truth that term limits is not a black and white issue, like so many, it is not even grey, but varied in colors.

    But was I have been just discovering a lot about politics recently, and reflecting various early resignations from offices, another truth starts to pop up from the ‘other side’ of an election. How much ‘seniority’ plays such a large role in our officials power. This often has nothing to do with ability, or knowledge, or wisdom, just time on the bench. And while that is often an aspect of measuring someones possible understanding, it does not communicate their value.

    • Jesse Greenberg

      Damian, thanks for sharing your views. The seniority issue is huge. We saw that very clearly in the 5th Congressional District Special Election – Mike Quigley won the seat but entered as the lowest ranking member of the House. I think term limits would even the playing field for all elected officials and leadership posts would have to be decided upon by peers. It would be similar to today’s process but the difference would be of course that not one person (Mike Madigan) could serve as the legislative leader for eternity. That’s healthy for democracy, I believe.

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