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Bobby Rush Will Not Seek Re-Election, Sources Say

Rush, 75, has represented Chicago's South Side and nearby suburbs in Congress for nearly three decades.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush speaks at the 95th/Dan Ryan Red Line station after touring the station with officials in Roseland on July 16, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHATHAM — Rep. Bobby Rush, Illinois’ longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, will not seek another term in office, ending nearly three decades representing several South Side neighborhoods and southwest suburbs, sources said Monday.

Rush is holding a press conference Tuesday morning where he is expected to announce that he will not seek another in 2022, according to a source familiar with the campaign. NBC5 first reported the news about Rush’s expected retirement.

Rush, 75, was elected to represent Illinois’ 1st district in Congress in 1992 and has been re-elected 14 consecutive times through 2020. A co-founder of Illinois’ Black Panther Party, Rush also is an Army veteran, pastor and ordained minister.

Rush’s retirement ensures there will be a new congressman for the 1st District in 30 years. For months before the expected announcement, several hopefuls had signaled their intention to vie for Rush’s seat, including activist Jahmal Cole, teacher Kirby Birgans, pastor Chris Butler, Dee Nix and Michael Thompson.

Cole, who threw his hat in the ring nearly a year ago, called Rush a “legend” and said on Twitter he is honored to be considered by voters for the seat.

Rush narrowly defeated his predecessor, Charles A. Hayes, in the 1992 primary then easily won the general election for the heavily Democratic district, which has not had a Republic representative since the 1930s. He rarely faced much challenges for his seat in subsequent campaigns, even easily beating then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2000.

Rush is part of a long line of Black congressmen to represent the majority-minority 1st district. Oscar Stanton De Priest, elected in 1929, was the first Black person elected to Congress in the 20th century and the district has been represented by Black men ever since. That legacy includes Harold Washington, who resigned in 1983 after he was elected mayor of Chicago.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st) waves his hands in the air along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive during the 92nd Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago on Aug. 14, 2021.

Born in Georgia in 1946, Rush’s family moved to Chicago as part of the Great Migration of African Americans from the South.

He enlisted in the Army in 1963 and became active in civil rights while stationed in Chicago. He went AWOL from the service in 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., according to a LA Times profile, and helped launch the Black Panthers Party chapter in Illinois the same year. He later received an honorary discharge from the Army.

Rush became the acting leader of the Illinois Black Panther Party after Chicago Police assassinated Chairman Fred Hampton in 1969. Rush left the Black Panthers in 1974, but as recently as May, he has pushed for the release of secret FBI files about Hampton’s killing. He focused on education through the 1970s, getting degrees from Roosevelt University, University of Illinois Chicago and McCormick Theological Seminary.

It was during that time he gravitated toward politics. After an unsuccessful bid for City Council, he became 2nd Ward alderman when Washington was elected in 1983. He served in that role for nearly a decade before seeking the Congressional seat.

His only electoral loss in the past 30 years was an unsuccessful bid for mayor against Richard M. Daley in 1999.

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