Sept. 4, 2019 — Twelve-term Illinois Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville), a key member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, announced over the Labor Day weekend that he will not seek re-election next year, becoming the latest GOP House member to join the increasing line of incumbents voluntarily not returning for the next Congress.
Rep. Shimkus’ retirement makes his IL-15 the 18th open House seat for the next election, including the two September 10th North Carolina special elections. Of this group, Republicans currently hold 14 of the 18 seats, with the vacant NC-9 — one of those currently in special election and the district that featured a disputed 2018 electoral result — previously in the GOP column as well.
Shimkus, in his written statement, said, “[A]s Illinois candidates begin to circulate petitions next week, now is the time for me to announce that I will not be seeking re-election.
“It has been the honor of my lifetime to be asked by the people of Illinois to represent them in our nation’s capital. Each day I have tried to do this as best as I possibly could, and my success lies squarely at the feet of my incredible staff in Illinois and Washington, DC.”
IL-15 is a safe Republican district. President Trump carried the seat, 71-24 percent, in 2016. Four years earlier, Mitt Romney’s margin was 64-34 percent, and John McCain won here 55-43 percent in 2008. Therefore, over the course of time, the 15th has become more Republican. In his four elections in this district configuration, Shimkus has averaged 78.6 percent of the general election vote.
The district is predominantly located in the eastern sector of the state, hugging the Indiana border and traveling due south all the way to Kentucky. It then stretches west to almost the other side of the state in order to annex the Collinsville area, an outer St. Louis metro area community where Shimkus resides.
The expansive district covers 29 whole counties and parts of four others. The largest population area, approximately 205,000 of the district’s 701,000 residents, is within the outer Champaign/Danville metro area, though the city of Champaign, home to the University of Illinois’ main campus, is not in this district. The largest city is Danville with just 32,000 people.
At this point, several individuals are being mentioned as possible candidates. Three Republican state senators — Jason Plummer (R-Vandalia); a former lieutenant governor nominee, Dale Richter (R-Mattoon); and Chapin Rose (R-Champaign County); state Rep. Mike Marron (R-Danville); and former Miss America (2003) and 2014 congressional candidate in District 13 and the party’s 2018 attorney general nominee, Erika Harold, are all considered as possible contenders. The lone announced Democrat is teacher and actor John Hursey Jr.
In all, eight state Senate and 12 state House districts are either fully or partially contained within the 15th District confines, as are hundreds of local offices from the various counties, cities, and towns. Therefore, a large number of potential candidates with elective experience reside in the CD.
Since nomination petition gathering as a prelude to the Dec. 2 candidate filing deadline begins next week, the various potential congressional office seekers have only a short time to make a decision about running. The Illinois primary is scheduled for March 17.