(Chicago, IL) – August 3, 2010. Alderman Helen Shiller’s surprise retirement announcement dramatically altered the 46th ward political landscape and intensified efforts by community leaders to recruit State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) to jump into the race, but Harris has turned aside the entreaties.
Harris, a 20-year resident of the neighborhood, is staying put in the Illinois General Assembly.
“It’s very flattering,” said Harris, who is seeking a third, two-year term in November, “But one of the key reasons why I went Springfield was to advance marriage equality in Illinois—and it remains undone.”
Harris, who succeeded the late State Rep. Larry McKeon, as Illinois’ only second openly gay lawmaker, asserted that the marriage equality is a fundamental commitment for him.
“It is a matter of principle,” said Harris today. “And I try to stand on principle.’
Some political observers have speculated that a civil unions bill could be approved by the legislature during its fall veto session, creating an opportunity for Harris to jump late into the 46th ward contest.
Harris dismissed that speculation out-of-hand.
While noting that such a maneuver would leave only three days to pass petitions, Harris stressed a dislike of “office hopping” by politicians in mid-term.
“It bugs me,” said Harris. “My name is on the ballot for one job and that’s what I should focus on.”
Harris, who is sitting on $26,000 in his campaign account, would have been the dominant candidate in the existing field of four candidates–Ward Streets and Sanitation Superintendent Don Nowotny, Chicago police officer Michael Carroll, Buena Park attorney Molly Phelan, and the 2007 challenger to Schiller, James Cappleman–according to one area lawmaker.
“Greg would be the 800-pound gorilla and the ideal compromise candidate,” said a local legislator.
Though he will not be a candidate himself, Harris has also no plans at the moment—or if at all–to endorse any of the currently declared candidates or any candidate that may yet emerge.
“One day at a time,” said Harris. “I’m focused on what I’m doing today.”
Let the circus begin.