Hyde To Retire? Fo' Sho'
It's not official, but speculation has turned to expectation that 15-term northwest suburban Congressman Henry Hyde will announce in April that this is his last term in Congress. The staunch conservative will be 82 when term ends in 2006, and due to House of Representative rules, he is no longer eligible to keep his chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs Committee. As a result, this is probably the perfect time for him to end a long, successful run in Congress -- and is yet another signal that politics in Illinois is rapidly changing.
Despite his strong conservative views, Hyde was rarely a part of the national consciousness. The first was when he sponsored the so-called "Hyde Amendment" in 1976, that would ban federal funding for abortions through Medicaid and military hospitals. The second was in 1998 when, as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Hyde passed articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton and then managed the House impeachment vote.
Unlike his former Republican colleague to his north, Phil Crane, Hyde continues to be vigorous in his job, even bringing $14 million in road money to his hometown just this month. But Democrats believe him to be vulnerable. Last November, Democrat Christine Cegelis managed to win 45% of the vote against him, and she has vowed to run again, continuing to run a strong fundraising operation in the off-election season.
Speculation has been rife for some time about Hyde's potential resignation, and so has talk about potential Republican successors, most recently seeming to settle on Wheaton State Senator Peter Roskam. A candidate for Congress before, Roskam lost to fellow-Republican Judy Biggert in the 1998 primary for a different Congressional seat. It looks like Roskam has paid his dues and the way is being paved for him to run in 2006.
Hyde's retirement signals yet another change in the Illinois political guard. In the past two years, a number of significant old political leaders have been fading out of the picture. In that time Chicago has seen the retirement of political titans George Dunne, Bill Lipinski, and Tom Hynes. In the suburbs, Phil Crane was sent packing, and Henry Hyde seems to be on his way. At the same time, buzz continues to percolate about the future of County Board President John Stroger, as well as possible retirement plans of Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Image via Rep. Henry Hyde's office.