Twelve-term Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL-12) announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election to the House next year. When his tenure ends and he completes 24 years in office, it will be almost exactly half of the time that his predecessor, the late Rep. Melvin Price (D), spent in Congress. Together, the two men have represented the Illinois portion of the St. Louis suburbs and the city of East St. Louis for 72 consecutive years.
Mr. Costello becomes the 20th sitting member who will exit the House at the end of the current Congress. He is the seventh to retire. The other 13 are seeking higher office. Fourteen are Democrats as compared to six Republicans. Adding the dozen new seats that reapportionment created, the current open seat total for the 2012 cycle is now 32.
IL-12 is the least Democratic of all the new districts that state legislative majority leaders constructed for members of their own party. President Obama scored 55 percent here in 2008, a strong number but much weaker than in the other Democratic districts. John Kerry, in his 2004 campaign against then-President George W. Bush, only carried the seat by four percentage points. Though it may be approaching a marginal rating, the 12th should still elect a Democrat in a 2012 open situation, especially with the President back on the ballot in his home state.
Republicans were making plans to target this seat even when believing their campaign would be a challenge to Costello. Now that the seat is open, IL-12 will likely move up the GOP conversion target list. Their first choice as a prospective candidate is 2010 lieutenant governor nominee Jason Plummer. Former Bellevue Mayor Roger Cook (R) had previously announced his candidacy.
Democrats could conceivably turn to Mr. Costello’s son, Jerry Costello Jr., who is an appointed state Representative. Since this is a seat that favors Democrats, expect lively competition in the party primary. The eventual Democratic nominee will have the inside track for the general election.