SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Senate President John Cullerton told his caucus at the end of veto session Thursday night that he plans to retire and step away from his post in January.
The Democrat, who also works as a Chicago attorney, took over the helm to lead Senate Democrats one decade ago after former Senate President Emil Jones retired.
Cullerton issued a statement Thursday night that said, in part,
Eleven years ago I was honored to be chosen as the leader of the Illinois Senate. I came to the job with great optimism and enthusiasm, ready to tackle the challenges confronting Illinois, and with great expectations for moving forward to solve some of the crises our state faced.
I’ve had the pleasure to work with a body of Senate members who were equally resolute in moving Illinois forward and making the changes necessary to grow our economy and build a better future for our children and our communities.
Cullerton presided over the impeachment of former Governor Rod Blagojevich, enacted tougher regulations on tobacco products and raised the smoking age to 21, negotiated the ‘Grand Bargain’ with former Governor Bruce Rauner that ultimately failed, but laid the groundwork for the state to end a two-year budget impasse.
He has taken criticism for not pressuring his members to resign in the wake of a sprawling FBI probe. Senator Tom Cullerton, a Democrat from Villa Park and a distant cousin to the Senate President, faces federal indictment for allegedly taking payments from a teamsters union on a ghost payroll. FBI agents later raided the home and state offices of Senator Martin Sandoval, a Democrat from Cicero, though Sandoval has not yet been charged. Cullerton removed both members from their positions as chair of their respective committees but argued they deserved due process before being expelled or forced out of office.
Another member, Senator Terry Link from Waukegan, was named by the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune as a government male who wore a wire to help the feds bust House Democrat Louis Arroyo for alleged bribery. Link denied any involvement, but Cullerton stepped in to help try and negotiate the final details of an agreement to establish a casino in Chicago. However, that deal fell apart in the waning hours of veto session Thursday night.
The Senate President was recently awarded for his work on curbing tobacco use by the American Lung Association.
At the time of this publication, Cullerton has not yet issued a statement or talk to the press about his sudden departure. According to sources familiar with his thinking, his original plan was to stay on as Senate president through the redistricting process in 2021.