In Illinois' 15th Congressional District, a candidate once favoring term limits will be running again.
Last Thursday, U.S. Representative John Shimkus, a Republican from Collinsville, announced he will be running for an eleventh term. Citing the need to collect sufficient petition signatures, Shimkus said, "It is an honor and privilege to represent the people of the 15th district in Washington, D.C., and I do not take that responsibility lightly."
The announcement was unsurprising, but noteworthy because for the fifth time the congressman will be breaking a pledge. During his first successful campaign, Shimkus vowed to serve no more than 12 years.
"The longer people are in office, the more they lose touch with the people back home. . . . Races become more exciting when neither candidate faces the power of an incumbent," Shimkus was reported saying in 1996.Shimkus has said since that it was a "mistake" to shackle himself with a term limit pledge then and "it is a mistake today. Unless everyone plays by the same rules, it doesn't make sense." His statement suggested that unless term limits are enacted that retire everyone, it is futile for certain legislators to voluntarily term limit themselves.
Shimkus is generally considered conservative. His lifetime American Conservative Union rating is 84%, one of the higher scores among Illinois Republicans. During his tenure, Shimkus has served on House committees dealing with energy and the environment. His previous legislative initiatives have led to more biodiesel fuel use and federal testing of booster seats.
Combined with a modest record of achievement and a friendly district, breaking his campaign promise has not hurt Shimkus politically. In the four elections since his promise was broken, he has averaged 70% of the vote.
Geographically large, the 15th district is a gerrymandered district that stretches from Shimkus' hometown near St. Louis, bypasses the more Democratic southwestern corner of Illinois, and extends up the eastern border of the state all the way to Champaign.
The seat is safely Republican. A Democrat has held the 15th district seat for only two years since 1939. The district is so unlikely to see a well-funded Democrat that in 2012, the pro-life Shimkus faced an anti-abortion activist in the general election who won unopposed in that year's Democratic Party primary.
To date, no Democrat has announced for the 15th district.
Image: U.S. Rep. John Shimkus