Facing domestic problems, Suzi Schmidt won’t run in 2012

Beleaguered by domestic problems and questions about her possibly improper use of political influence, state Sen. Suzi Schmidt on Monday announced she won’t seek re-election in 2012.

“At this point in my life, my personal life and my family are my priority, and I hope to dedicate more of my time with them in the coming months and years,” the Lake Villa Township Republican said in a statement emailed to the media Monday. “Therefore, I will not be a candidate for re-election in 2012.”

Reached by the Daily Herald, Schmidt said she felt good about her decision. It came after conversations with her 86-year-old mother, her sisters and other family members.

“I decided that it’s time for me to move on,” said Schmidt, 60. “I’m going to look forward to spending time with my mom and family.”

The announcement is a reversal for Schmidt, who said in early October she would remain in office and run again next year despite the controversies that have arisen recently.

Schmidt, the former leader of the Lake County Board, came under fire in September after a series of police incidents at her home surfaced. They involved domestic battles between Schmidt and her husband, Robert.

In an incident last Christmas, Schmidt called 911, identified herself as the former county board chairman and told a dispatcher to ignore any calls from her husband, Robert, after a domestic dispute.

In the same call, she told the police dispatcher her husband is afraid of her “because he knows I have connections.”

Following a separate domestic incident in September, Schmidt told a sheriff’s deputy her husband was trying to derail her Senate career.

The Schmidts now are separated.

Some Republican Party leaders pressured Schmidt to resign after the disputes and phone calls became public. Among the most prominent critics was state Senate GOP leader Christine Radogno.

On Monday, a spokesman for Radogno said the Lemont Republican “respects (Schmidt’s) decision to focus on her job as state senator and her family.”

Among Schmidt’s staunch supporters was Lake County GOP leader Bob Cook. He said Schmidt called him Saturday to say she would drop out of the race.

Cook tried to talk Schmidt out of withdrawing but acknowledged “she’s got to do what’s best for her.”

“It just drags on you,” Cook said of the domestic problems the Schmidts are trying to resolve. “Going through these kinds of situations is difficult when you’re a private person. When it’s in the news, it’s 10 times more difficult.”

The 31st Senate District covers northern Lake County. Schmidt won the post in 2010, defeating Democratic incumbent Michael Bond.

A retired teacher, Schmidt served on the Lake Villa Township board in the mid-1980s before joining the county board in 1988.

She led the county board for a decade, a record tenure.

On Monday, Schmidt was upbeat about leaving political life.

“I’ve been doing this for 27 years, and it’s time for me to do something fun,” she said.

Schmidt’s decision not to run for a second Senate term leaves former county board member — and former Schmidt political ally — Larry Leafblad as the only declared GOP candidate in the race.

Leafblad announced his candidacy in October as a response to Schmidt’s problems.

On Monday, Leafblad praised Schmidt for her years of service and for being the first woman to lead the county board.

“She was a trailblazer,” said Leafblad, of Grayslake. “It’s sad that it had to end like this, but she has nothing to be ashamed of.”

The GOP’s Cook expects more Republican candidates will surface for the Senate seat. One possible hopeful is Lennie Jarratt, a Round Lake Beach tea party activist who on Monday announced he’s forming an exploratory committee.

“We must change the people and the culture in Springfield,” Jarratt said in a news release. “I am running to change Illinois, restore jobs and lower taxes.”

County board member Melinda Bush who defeated Leafblad in 2008 to win that post, is the lone Democratic candidate for the Senate seat.

Bush was among several Democrats who ousted Republican incumbents that year, aided by Democratic support for Barack Obama’s presidential bid.

“That’s not going to be the case this time,” Leafblad said, referring to the president’s decreased popularity.

Bush, of Grayslake, said Schmidt’s withdrawal from the 2012 race doesn’t change her campaign.

“This was never about who I was running against,” Bush said. “I’m still the same candidate.”

Ÿ Daily Herald Politics and Projects Writer Kerry Lester contributed to this report.

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Lawrence Leafblad
Lennie Jarratt
Melinda (Willen) Bush
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