Longtime U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush’s announcement of his decision to retire this week has blown open the campaign race for the 1st Congressional District, where many Black candidates are now reportedly considering running for the seat in the Democratic primary.
The scramble is on to fill the seat as Congressman Rush prepares to announce a candidate that he will back in a race that is set to draw some familiar and unfamiliar names in Chicago.
Two days after Congressman Rush’s announcement, Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd) and State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-16) said they will enter the race for the seat.
“After careful consideration and many conversations with family and supporters, I am announcing that I will run for Congress in Illinois’ 1st District,” Alderman Dowell said in a statement.
“Congressman Rush has created a legacy of fighting for others that I will strive to honor and uphold. I am grateful for the support people have given me in my run for Secretary of State. Recent events, both here in Illinois and across the country, have led me to decide to make this run for Congress.”
In response to Alderman Dowell’s decision, Alderman David Moore (17th) and others have criticized her decision as a “pivot” to Washington after Alderman Dowell dropped her bid to run for Illinois Secretary of State.
With just six months to go before the Democratic primary, activist Jahmal Cole is the biggest name who has had the biggest head start in the campaign race for Congressman’s Rush’s seat. Since entering the race in 2020, the young founder of “My Block, My Hood, My City” has faced a battle in unseating Congressman Rush.
However, after Congressman Rush’s announcement to not seek re-election after nearly 30 years in office, Cole and his opponents’ political hopes to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives have dramatically increased.
A potentially overcrowded field could make it a close race in a diverse congressional district that stretches from Chicago’s South Side to Will County. The 1st Congressional District is 52 percent Black and 36 percent white.
For so long, Congressman Rush has dominated his district at the ballot box.
In overwhelming numbers, Black voters have supported him and discouraged other candidates from running against him. Before Congressman Rush’s announcement, six candidates entered the 2022 race as voters grew weary with establishment politics in Washington and states across the country.
Now, the field for Congressman Rush’s seat may swell into the double digits.
Hours after Congressman Rush’s announcement, Karin Norington-Reaves, CEO at Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, sent an email for a major announcement that will take place on Zoom on January 9.
When the Crusader asked if the announcement had anything to do with filling Congressman Rush’s seat, a staff member declined to comment, but offered the Crusader an interview with Norington-Reaves after her big announcement.
Aldermen Roderick Sawyer (6th), Michelle Harris (8th) and Stephanie Coleman (16th) are considering entering the race, according to Politico’s Illinois Playbook. Additional prospective candidates identified by Politico’s Illinois Playbook include State Senators Jacqueline Collins, Elgie Sims and Robert Peters.
On January 4, Senator Peters released a statement to the Crusader. “Congressman Rush—and his impact on advancing racial justice—will endure far beyond his nearly 40 years in public office. He helped found the movement that’s made a half-century of progress toward civil rights possible—a movement that has grown across communities, at all levels of government, and continues today.
“With this news, we can all benefit from starting the new year by taking a step back to reflect on and find inspiration from Congressman Rush’s lifetime of work toward fairness and equity. We know the work isn’t done, but Bobby Rush has shown us there’s nothing that we collectively cannot do.”
The report in Politico’s Illinois Playbook also identified State Representatives Marcus Evans (D-33), Lamont Robinson (D-5) and Kam Buckner (D-26), chair of the House Black Caucus, as potential candidates. The report said Congressman Rush’s son, Flynn Rush, who is running for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, is a “wild card.”
In the 2018 Democratic primary, Flynn Rush ran unsuccessfully against State Representative Curtis Tarver for 25th District in the Illinois House of Representatives. Flynn Rush placed second with just 16 percent of the vote, compared to Tarver’s 25 percent of the vote.
On Twitter, Cole said, “I just heard that @RepBobbyRush will not be running for office again. I have always said Congressman Rush is a legend, so it is an honor to be considered by the First District to represent my community in D.C. and continue that legacy.”
Later, Cole sent a second Tweet, saying, “I was the first person to declare that I would be running in this district because I knew I needed to take my role in the community a step further, beyond my nonprofit. It’s time we, the new generation of community organizers and activists, use our power to create real change.”
Meanwhile, many remain in shock from Congressman Rush’s decision to not seek re-election for a seat he has held since 1993.
In the past year, he stepped up his profile at many events in Chicago’s Black community as Cole and other opponents sought to establish a strong presence among voters. Last month, Rush—who co-founded the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party—tested positive for COVID-19.
In his press conference Tuesday, Jan. 4, at the historic Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Bronzeville, Congressman Rush said he plans to focus on his work as a pastor at the Beloved Community Church of God in Christ in the Woodlawn community on the South Side.
“After nearly three decades in Congress, I have been reassigned,” Congressman Rush said. “Let me make it clear that I am not retiring, I am returning. I’m returning home, returning to my church, returning to my family and grandchildren, but my calling to a life of service is stronger than ever.
“I am expanding my tent beyond the guardrails of Congress, and I can see clearly that the next step for my continued service stems from my transformational embrace by the Holy Spirit. I’m returning to my passion, that is, to share the special power of love that transforms hearts and minds.
“My faith tells me that there’s a reason I’m still here. By all rights, I should have been murdered on December 5, 1969—the day after the police assassinated Fred Hampton. They came for me the next day, shot down my door, but by the grace of God, my family and I were not home.
“Decades later, my life was spared again in my fight against cancer. 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—from the pulpit, in the community, and in the halls of power.
“I am proud of my legacy in Congress. I come from the Black experience, but I have a deep-seated love for all of humanity. As a former leader of the Black Panther Party, I was involved in the organizing of the original Rainbow Coalition. I have a long history of organizing on behalf of and serving people in need, regardless of race or other affiliations. I am eager to continue working tirelessly for justice and equality over my next 12 months in Congress and beyond.”
“I love the voters of the 1st Congressional District, and I am immensely grateful to them for sending me to work on their behalf for nearly 30 years. I look forward to working hand in hand with my colleagues who remain in Congress and with the next representative of the 1st Congressional District.”