By Felicia Sonmez,
Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) said Monday that he will not run for reelection this year, citing his desire to spend more time with his grandchildren.
Rush, 75, first won election to Congress in 1992 and will have served for three decades when he retires early next year. He is the only Democrat to have defeated Barack Obama, who unsuccessfully challenged him during Rush’s 2000 reelection bid. This year, Rush had been facing primary challenges from several Democrats, including activist Jahmal Cole and pastor Chris Butler.
In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday, Rush said he arrived at his decision after a recent conversation with his 19-year-old grandson, Jonathan.
“I don’t want my grandchildren . . . to know me from a television news clip or something they read in a newspaper,” Rush told the newspaper. “I want them to know me on an intimate level, know something about me, and I want to know something about them. I don’t want to be a historical figure to my grandchildren.”
Rush’s office said the congressman will discuss his “plans for the future” at a news conference Tuesday morning at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ. The Chicago church was the site of the 1955 funeral of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black boy whose brutal torture and murder in Mississippi sparked the civil rights movement.
Rush helped found the Illinois Black Panther Party in the late 1960s and is a longtime civil rights activist. In 2012, he was escorted from the House floor for wearing a hoodie to protest racial profiling while calling for an investigation into the fatal shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
In recent years, Rush has introduced legislation that would make lynching a federal hate crime. He also has pushed the federal government to reveal files related to the killing of Fred Hampton, a Black Panther activist targeted by an FBI informant and shot by police in Chicago in 1969.
“We want to bring light, a bright light, to a dark history of our nation. And I think it’s very timely and very important that we do it at this time,” Rush told The Washington Post in an interview last year on his search for answers about Hampton’s killing.
Rush is the 24th House Democrat to announce that he will not run for reelection this year. Although his district leans strongly Democratic, the House Republican campaign arm nonetheless argued that his retirement shows that Democrats “are abandoning ship as fast as possible because they know their majority is doomed.”
“If Democrats thought their retirement crisis would get better over the holidays, they were wrong,” Mike Berg, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement.
Rush also announced last week that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, despite being fully vaccinated and having received his booster shot.
“I am feeling fine and currently have no symptoms. . . . As COVID-19 cases rise and the Omicron variant spreads throughout the nation, I encourage everyone who has not yet done so to get vaccinated and get boosted as soon as possible,” Rush said in a statement.
Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.