Columnist

Tom Kacich is a columnist and the author of Tom's Mailbag at The News-Gazette. His column appears Sundays. His email is tkacich@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@tkacich).

Listen to this article

Since there are no term limits for members of Congress, it seems the next best thing is congressional redistricting. In Illinois at least, that’s what often leads to congressional retirements — forced and unforced.

It’s already the case in Illinois this year as two in the state’s 18-member congressional delegation — Democrat Cheri Bustos of East Moline and Republican Adam Kinzinger of Channahon — have announced they won’t run again in 2022. There may be more retirements.

In East Central Illinois, the congressional election following the decennial census often has been a period of change.

Ten years ago, U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, said he would run for reelection in the newly drawn 13th Congressional District that was mostly new to him and extended down to some of the Illinois suburbs of metro St. Louis.

Johnson even won a three-way Republican primary with 68 percent of the vote. But about two weeks after the primary, Johnson, in a surprise announcement, said he would not seek a seventh term.

Republican county chairmen chose Rodney Davis, a Taylorville Republican, to replace Johnson on the November ballot, and he narrowly won a three-way election.

Rep. Terry Bruce, D-Olney, represented Champaign-Urbana in Congress from 1985 to 1993. But after Republicans redrew the congressional maps in 1991, Bruce was thrown into the same district as Rep. Glenn Poshard. Poshard won the Democratic primary and ended Bruce’s four-term congressional career.

Fifty years ago this month, the last congressional representative to hail from Champaign, Republican William Springer, announced his retirement. Springer, 62 at the time, had served in Congress for 20 years and hadn’t given any indication he was ready to step down.

Most Republican politicians said they were stunned by the announcement and were unprepared for a run to replace Springer in the overwhelmingly Republican district that included Champaign, Macon, McLean, Piatt, DeWitt, Logan and Menard counties, smack in the middle of the state.

But one Republican state representative who had been in on redrawing the maps of Illinois’ congressional districts was ready: mild-mannered Edward Madigan. He lived in Lincoln, in the center of the district, and already represented five of the counties in the Illinois Legislature.

And he had been talking all along to Springer.

“My state legislative district overlaps into three congressional districts,” Madigan said before announcing his candidacy. “In my efforts to help people from my district, I could always go to Bill Springer for assistance. I am not knocking anyone else, but Springer has really helped me and the people in my district.”

Asked if he was interested in running for Congress — which he obviously was — Madigan said, “The first time anyone ever suggested to me that I someday consider Congress was a few years ago, and that man was Bill Springer. He and I talked about the possibility at some length but it was always in the future.”

Madigan denied that he had drawn a perfect congressional district from which to run but indicated he had intimate knowledge of its politics.

“No, that line is not quite true,” he said. “I did go to Washington to sign a contract with a computer company that was helping with the reapportionment, and while I was there, I did meet with Congressman Springer and his wife. But it was just the typical courtesy that Bill Springer is known for.”

Madigan said he didn’t fear up-and-coming Republican state Rep. John Hirschfeld of Champaign or any other GOP politician.

“If you look at the 21st Congressional District, you would find that 65 percent of the Republican primary vote in the last election came from the counties that I represent now, and in which I have had the good fortune of running well,” he said.

Madigan ran well enough in the 1972 election to win his first term and was re-elected to Congress nine times. He left Congress voluntarily, having been appointed as President George H.W. Bush’s second secretary of agriculture in 1991.

This year’s version of Madigan might be Democrat Nikki Budzinski. She announced her candidacy for the 13th Congressional District nomination well before its new, Democrat-favorable boundaries were made public and has already compiled a long list of local supporters including State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, State’s Attorney Julia Rietz and Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin.

Budzinski has also raised $454,305, about four times the $108,227 collected by the other Democratic candidate in the district, David Palmer of Champaign. So far, there is no Republican candidate in the district that runs from Champaign-Urbana through Springfield down to Belleville and East St. Louis.

There’s plenty of time for other candidates to surface. The primary election won’t be held until June 28, 2022.

Tom Kacich’s column appears on Sundays in The News-Gazette. He can be reached at kacich@news-gazette.com.

Trending Videos