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Afew years ago, he rumbled about hanging up his senate president hat. This time, state Senate President Emil Jones Jr. (D- 14th) put his money where his mouth is. Jones announced Monday that he will retire in January, at the end of his term, and he wants

A few years ago, he rumbled about hanging up his senate president hat. This time, state Senate President Emil Jones Jr. (D- 14th) put his money where his mouth is.

Jones announced Monday that he will retire in January, at the end of his term, and he wants his son, Emil Jones III, to inherit his district post.

The retirement announcement––without explanation––did not catch some of those who serve with Jones offguard. But his wishes for his son to succeed him drew mixed reaction from two state representatives in Jones’ district.

State Rep. Bob Rita (D-28th) who represents a portion of the south suburbs located within Jones’ senate district, said Jones’ 31-year-old son deserves a chance. He is a regional manager at the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Not so fast, said the other representative in Jones’ South Side and south suburban district.

South Side state Rep. Monique Davis (D-27th) said the senate president took away the public’s opportunity to voice who they wanted to represent them in the state senate. She said he should have announced his retirement last February.

“I think he’s following suit for what has been a precedent in Chicago politics. By not announcing his retirement during the primary election and putting that individual in the primary race, he’s just handing him the position. The people have the right to choose who they want,” Davis said.

Constituents of Jones’ district need to base their decision on whether or not the people vying for the job have worked on any campaigns or even participated in any activities in the communities, Davis said. Instead, they will have someone who “can use the name of their father,” she said.

Committee men in Jones’ senate district have the power to choose who will replace Jones on the Nov. 4 ballot.

“Some people will say that’s OK. But, when you choose people for elected office who don’t have a record of commitment to your district, that commitment rarely shows up when they get in office. Hopefully he will be a good senator,” Davis said.

When the Defender asked Davis if she was interested in Jones’ senate seat, she said it wouldn’t be in her best interest at this point in her career to have that office.

“Let me clearly say that I haven’t given it any thought. I am the No. 9 Democrat in the House. If I went to the Senate, I would be the low man on the totem pole. The seniority does not follow you into the next house. The salary is the same, and both houses are equal with power,” she said.

State senators who serve with Jones said they would miss him once he officially leaves Springfield next year.

“I found him to be an advocate for the issues that I’m passionate about–more funding for education–and he’s a strong voice for social justice. He was a great mentor and had a way to empower his membership,” said state Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-16th).

State Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-3rd) said she doubts Jones, whom she considers a personal friend, will be able to stay away from politics.

“He eats, sleeps and breathes politics. It’s going to be really difficult for him to give it up completely,” she said.

Another South Side senator said Jones’ work would leave a lasting impression.

“Senate President Emil Jones is a tremendous speaker, a great leader and fighter for education. His work and legacy will never be forgotten. His strong presence will be missed,” said state Sen. Rev. James Meeks (D-15th).

While Jones wants his son to assume his senate seat, he made no indication for who he wanted to succeed him as senate president. Among those interested are state Sens. Rickey Hendon (D-5th), Donne Trotter (D-17th) and James Clayborne (D- 57th).

The 72-year-old Jones is a 35-year state legislature veteran and a former city sewer inspector. He is a top ally to Gov. Rod Blagojevich and championed for increased education funding. Democratic White House hopeful U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) often referred to Jones as his political godfather. Jones is expected to have a major role at next week’s Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Kathy Chaney can be reached via e-mail at kchaney@chicagodefender.com.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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