As Illinois legislators set longevity marks, candidate makes one-term vow
Several Illinois incumbents have made it to the list of longest-serving politicians in the state’s history, a distinction that U.S. congressional candidate Jeffrey Leef vows never to earn.
State House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Dist. 22) , who has been a member of the Illinois House since 1971, is the longest-serving speaker in the state’s history. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin joined the Senate in 1997 and officially became the longest-serving Illinois U.S. senator last year. U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, who became a member of Congress in 1997, became the longest-serving Illinois U.S. congressman.
But Leef, a Republican vying for Davis’ 7th District congressional seat, has said that, unlike Davis, he will only serve one term if elected.
“Two of the things I plan on throwing out from the start (are): No. 1, I so firmly believe in term limits that I can state that I will run for a single term because I personally know 50 people that would be excellent candidates to follow in my footsteps,” Leef told the West Cook News.
The second thing Leef said he plans to do is donate up to half of his congressional salary to charity.
Davis has won each re-election by a large margin, with 81 percent being the lowest number of votes he claimed in an election.
After speculation circulated that Davis might retire in 2016, the Democratic incumbent said last September that he would seek re-election. Davis beat Thomas Day in the Democratic primary in March, carrying 81.2 percent of the vote.
Davis has been said to be one of the most reliable Democratic votes, which means he can be considered a safe vote for the Democratic Party in Congress.
Despite what he is up against, Leef, who used to coach boys Little League and girls softball, said it’s important for him to remain optimistic and be an example for the younger generation by showing them that this can be done and teaching them how the election process works.
“People need to know that I am completely serious about (running),” Leef said. “If things are done legitimately, which frankly I doubt, but if they’re done legitimately, who knows?”
Leef said he is not one to speak ill of anyone, and although he has different political views, he respects Davis for dedicating 20 years to his constituents.
“You can only respect someone that dedicates their time and so many years," Leef said. "That said, I think that things can be better. I think we can do better, and I think that, again, one of the ways to do better – for people to be more effective, whether it’s me or someone else, or (whoever) Congressman Davis’ replacement will be when he retires, is that there’s a term limit.”