ILLINOIS — After more than 20 years in Congress, Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, announced Friday that he will not be seeking reelection after finishing his 12th term in 2020.
“I will leave the political field knowing that I have served honorably and, with the help of many, accomplished a lot for my constituents, our state, and our nation,” Shimkus said in a written statement published on Facebook.
Shimkus, 61, is the state’s senior Republican House member, representing Illinois’ 15th Congressional District, which stretches from Madison County east across central Illinois to the borders with Indiana and Kentucky.
He is the 14th Republican to announce a resignation. His seat is expected to stay in GOP hands.
Shimkus is a West Point graduate who served in the Army in West Germany. He worked as a high school teacher before he was first elected to public office in 1989 as a Collinsville Township trustee. A year later he won election to serve as Madison County treasurer.
Shimkus first won election to the U.S. House in 1996 with just 1,200 votes as part of a conservative wave that broke the Democratic Party’s long hold on Southern Illinois and turned the region largely Republican.
An anti-abortion, anti-tax, NRA-backed incumbent, Shimkus is considered one of Illinois’ most conservative congressmen. Over the last 20 years, he has easily defeated Democratic challengers with support from a slew of top national conservative organizations.
He won reelection to the U.S. House in 2018 with 70% of the vote.
For much of his career, Shimkus chaired the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, a subcommittee that was instrumental in passing a complicated, bipartisan rewrite of federal law covering the oversight of hazardous chemicals. He lost his chairmanship when Democrats wrested control of the House from Republicans in 2018.
He has also been active in U.S. foreign policy, forming the congressional Baltic Caucus with former Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and serving as a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly from 2001 to 2014. Shimkus served on defense and security committees on that assembly, which is made up of members of NATO nation legislative bodies.
In his reelection campaigns, Shimkus’ primary sources of campaign funds have been PACs of electric utilities, pharmaceutical companies, and oil and gas firms — industries with a lot of business with the House Energy and Commerce committee.
He has faced criticism in the past for breaking a pledge he made during his first campaign not to serve more than 12 years. He has said that President George W. Bush talked him into staying in Congress, and that his reelection wins were proof voters wanted him there.
“We have term limits; they’re called elections,” Shimkus told the Post-Dispatch in 2016.
In his announcement Friday, Shimkus thanked his staff for their service and said he wanted to spend more time with his family, including his wife Karen and three adult sons, David, Joshua and Daniel. He said serving in Congress has been “a sacrifice” for his family, longtime residents of Collinsville and active members of Holy Cross Lutheran Church and School.
“I regret the times I have been away from the four of them and thank them for their constant love and support,” Shimkus said.
As a senior Republican, Shimkus has played a large role in fundraising for GOP candidates in tougher races, including Illinois Reps. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, and Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville. In 2018, Shimkus helped raise more than $360,000 for the National Republican Congressional Committee, contributed more than $107,000 from his campaign to other GOP candidates and gave $70,000 to the Illinois Republican Party.
Davis served as a congressional aide to Shimkus for 16 years before being elected to Congress in 2012.
“Illinois and Congress are losing one of the best members I know,” he said in a written statement. “He taught me the importance of constituent service and making the federal government work for the people you represent.”
Bost said Shimkus’ “leadership will be sorely missed.”
“We’re losing a valued colleague & close friend,” Bost tweeted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.