The political landscape of the North Shore will have a new look soon as State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg has decided not to seek another term leaving his two House colleagues as possible successors.
Schoenberg, 52, will end his Springfield days in January 2013 and begin to work full time for the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker family philanthropy, specifically as an advisor on the foundation’s work on early childhood development. Schoenberg has been employed part time with this organization since 2005.
“The issue that has been the center of my passion and what motivates me professionally is improving the lives of children and families – especially in our most vulnerable communities,” Schoenberg said in a statement.
Residing in northwest Evanston with his wife and two children, Schoenberg was first elected to the Illinois House in 1990 and was elected to the Senate in 2003. In the current session, Schoenberg serves the assistant majority leader and is the vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
His work in Springfield through the years has gained the most attention in the areas of purchasing reform by the state as well as trying to make changes with the Illinois Tollway.
“He has always been an honest person who speaks his mind and is not afraid to disagree with people,” said State Rep. Lou Lang. “He is one of the folks around here who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable.”
Lang and Schoenberg have concurred on many issues, but have gone separate ways on the issue of expanding gambling throughout the state. Lang is a fierce advocate for such legislation, but Schoenberg has opposed Lang’s efforts to get a bill into law.
Lang, in his role as Niles Township chairman, was disappointed in the timing of Schoenberg’s decision, as now possible candidates will have little time to gather petitions with a requisite minimum of 1,000 signatures. The petitions need to be turned into the State Board of Elections the week of November 28th.
“It would have been better if he made this decision sooner so the people could look for a replacement,” Lang said. “His senate district goes into my township so that has a political impact.”
Of course the overriding question is who will succeed Schoenberg in the Senate. The names of State Reps. Dan Biss and Robyn Gabel, whose districts are part of Schoenberg’s area, have arisen as possible replacements.
Telephone calls to Biss and Gable were not returned Tuesday night.
For his part, Schoenberg himself was not tipping his hand about a possible endorsement when talking to reporters on Tuesday.
“While I'd like to be able to plan for my own succession the way I would if I were moving on from a position of leadership in the private sector, I know that this simply isn't possible or even appropriate. That said, I am positive of one thing: over the last 21-plus years, I have done everything within my power to create the conditions in which the next state senator can be successful,” he said.
Working with Lang, committeeman in other townships besides Niles such as New Trier will play a role in the voting process of the candidates in advance for the March primary.
Democrats currently possess a 35-24 advantage in the Illinois Senate with all 59 seats up for election in 2012.