The Rev. James Meeks won’t run for re-election to state Senate
By Dave McKinney Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief firstname.lastname@example.org November 10, 2011 7:12PM
State Sen. James Meeks took a seat in the Legislature in 2003. | Scott Stewart/Sun-Times
Updated: December 13, 2011 9:00AM
SPRINGFIELD — State Sen. James Meeks won’t seek re-election and will end a political career at the Statehouse that started in 2003, an aide confirmed Thursday.
Meeks, pastor of Salem Baptist Church on Chicago’s South Side, had flirted with mayoral and gubernatorial runs during his stint in Springfield but instead opted to stay in the role of a state lawmaker.
“He’s served his time,” spokeswoman Tasha Harris said.
Meeks, who declined to be interviewed Thursday afternoon, had hinted earlier this year that he would step down after being stymied in his efforts to pass school-voucher legislation to help families with children in underperforming, inner-city schools.
Meeks, 55, also tasted failure with his legislative efforts to pass tax-swap legislation that would increase the state income tax to pump more money into schools while lowering property taxes.
In 2006, Meeks contemplated challenging former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in the Democratic gubernatorial primary but backed off after winning a pledge from Blagojevich to mortgage the state lottery to put the proceeds in education. Blagojevich never followed through.
In 2008, Meeks led a highly publicized boycott of Chicago’s public schools that included protests at New Trier High School, which ended with another promise from Blagojevich to talk about the state of education funding in Illinois.
In 2010, Meeks put his toe in the water again for higher political office, mounting a brief run for Chicago mayor. But trailing U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) among African-American candidates in some polls, Meeks dropped out of the race last December and shifted his support to former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.
Part of Meeks’ difficulty in mounting a mayoral candidacy related stemmed from anger in Chicago’s gay community over his remarks in 2006 characterizing homosexuality as “an evil sickness” and for his 2010 vote against Illinois’ civil unions law. Meeks also alienated some female voters with his opposition to abortion rights.
The South Side lawmaker arrived in Springfield after running as an independent in 2002 and unexpectedly unseating former state Sen. William Shaw (D-Dolton), who had backing from former Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago).
Harris, Meeks’ spokeswoman, did not have any other details about his decision to end his Springfield career or whether he has tabbed a replacement.