URBANA — Michael Richards, who dropped out of the race to succeed state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, on Sunday, said he found it difficult to serve in his state job and to run for the Legislature at the same time.
"It's become clear over the past few days that it wouldn't be possible to do my job as a state agency legislative director and also run a campaign for state representative," said Richards, who is a legislative liaison and a nuclear safety policy analyst for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. "Unfortunately, I just don't have the financial independence to campaign full time for the next 15 months."
He said he was not asked to withdraw from the 103rd House District race by Gov. Pat Quinn or anyone in his administration.
"I haven't had any discussions with the governor about my candidacy. I was not told by the governor's office that I must resign from the administration to run," Richards said.
And he said he isn't endorsing either of the two remaining Democratic candidates — Urbana City Council member Carol Ammons or Champaign attorney Sam Rosenberg — in the race.
Neither is Jakobsson, who plans to leave the position when her current term runs out on January 2015.
"It's quite likely that I'll stay out of it. I want to see the candidates and their positions, and what they talk about in their campaigns and how they would proceed on what they think are their big issues," said Jakobsson.
Richards, who had been endorsed by Jakobsson, said he's withholding an endorsement for now.
"Sam and Carol both deserve credit for getting into the race, sharing their ideas and running for state representative," Richards said. "However, I'm not supporting anyone until a candidate shows that he/she is going to be a legislator in the mold of Naomi Jakobsson and continue Naomi Jakobsson's work in Springfield."
Jakobsson sad she was "surprised" by Richards' announcement, which was sent out to supporters by email Sunday afternoon. He did not attend the Champaign County Democratic Party fall dinner Sunday night where he had been scheduled to speak.
She also said see didn't know if any other Democrat would want to run for the state representative seat in the district that includes almost all of Champaign-Urbana.
"I don't know. I haven't heard from anyone else. No one has contacted me to say, 'Hey, what do you think?'" Jakobsson said.
Richards' decision to withdraw from the race also raises questions about his political future. Since announcing he was running for state representative, Champaign Democrat Scott Redenbaugh announced that he would run for Richards' District 8 county board seat.
"Scott is a good candidate and would be a good board member. I would not run against him in a primary," Richards said Monday. "I frankly haven't had a chance to rule in or rule out running for anything next year. We'll see how I can best continue to serve the community."
Richards, 34, chairman of the county board's Democratic caucus, still has 13 months remaining on his county board term.