Those who consider politics to be a spectator sport have another contest to watch.
The decision by John Shimkus to step down from his 15th District congressional seat has unleashed the usual speculation and political jockeying that goes with an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Local GOP state Rep. Mike Marron of Danville quickly announced that he’s formed an exploratory committee to determine if it’s a good time for him to run. Another whose name has been mentioned is Republican state Sen. Jason Plummer of Edwardsville, while state Sens. Dale Righter of Mattoon and Chapin Rose of Mahomet looked into running but say they are no longer interested.
There are, no doubt, others who realize that open seats don’t come along very often and that they need to strike while the iron is hot.
Shimkus, who is from Madison County, said last week that he’s physically “tired” of representing such a geographically large district and that it’s time to wrap up his career. His sentiments are understandable.
The 15th District covers parts of Bond, Champaign, Ford and Madison counties and all of Clark, Clay, Clinton, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Edwards, Effingham, Fayette, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jasper, Johnson, Lawrence, Marion, Massac, Moultrie, Pope, Richland, Saline, Shelby, Vermilion, Wabash, Washington, Wayne and White counties.
Municipalities include all or parts of Centralia, Charleston, Danville, Edwardsville, Effingham, Glen Carbon, Mattoon and Rantoul.
Considered a strong Republican district, most of the political maneuvering in the contest to succeed Shimkus will be on the Republican side of the aisle — but perhaps not for long.
Reapportionment — meaning the realignment of U.S. House seats in all 50 states — will follow the 2020 election. Illinois is expected to lose at least one, and perhaps two, U.S. House seats because of population declines.
What that means for the future map is anyone’s guess. But with Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan in charge of overseeing the drawing of district boundary lines, it won’t be good for the GOP.
Shimkus’ district will almost certainly be dramatically altered, potentially shifting the current political dynamics.
For now, however, it’s the political dynamics of the next House of Representatives that is in play.
Shimkus is the 11th House Republican to announce retirement. Just three Democrats have disclosed that they, too, are retiring.
That GOP exodus, which probably will continue, makes it more difficult for Republicans to win back the House in the 2020 election. For their parts, Democrats are hoping to expand the majority they won in the 2018 election, not to mention winning back the White House and the Senate.
A West Point graduate and former teacher, Shimkus helped lead a Republican insurgency in Madison County, a longtime Democratic stronghold.
He first ran for township office, but established himself as a real politician when he was elected Madison County treasurer in 1990.
His first run for the U.S. House against then-Rep. Dick Durbin was unsuccessful. But Shimkus won that House seat in 19196, when Durbin ran for the U.S. Senate.
A party stalwart, the conservative Shimkus was a conscientious member of the House, where he is the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. He was an ardent proponent of nuclear power as a partial solution to energy and climate issues.
It’s unfortunate for the 15th District that someone so familiar with the people and the issues has decided it’s time to go. But nothing lasts forever, and there are few who are irreplaceable.
The challenge now is for voters to replace Shimkus with an effective and energetic successor.