Illinois U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello announced Tuesday he won't be seeking re-election next year after 23 years in office.
In a press conference, the 62-year-old downstate Democrat insisted he never intended to be a career congressman and said he's retiring to pursue other interests.
“You have to make a decision,” Costello said. “Do you want to continue to do what you're doing just to do it, or do you want to move on and do other things and be productive in other ways.”
Costello was first elected to represent Illinois' 12th Congressional District in 1988. The district covers much of southern and southwestern Illinois, including East St. Louis and Carbondale.
President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Costello "proudly" represented southern Illinois in the U.S. Congress as a "fierce advocate" for improving transportation infrastructure.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn called Costello a "tireless advocate" for his district, and fellow Illinois Congressman John Shimkus called Costello's decision a "great loss for southern Illinois" as well as a personal loss.
Costello’s retirement sets up a potential fight for the soon-to-be vacant southwest seat in next year’s election, one Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady thinks the GOP can win. He says Costello’s district has been trending red in recent elections, pointing to Republicans Rep. Mark Kirk and gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady’s victories there in the 2010 election.
“We think that is now a Republican district,” said Brady. “And with Congressman Costello's sudden resignation, I think we're in a pretty good position to take that back and will take it back.”
Upon announcing his retirement on Tuesday, Costello said he’s most proud of securing a future for Scott Air Force Base, and seeing construction start on the new Mississippi River Bridge.
He plans to serve out the remainder of his term, which is scheduled to end in January 2013.