State Rep. Andersson: No room for moderate voices in statehouse
The idea to quit, the feeling that he was unwanted and his efforts unappreciated, didn't come overnight for retiring state Rep. Steve Andersson.
Instead, the Geneva Republican -- who late Wednesday announced he won't seek re-election in the 65th District seat he's held since 2015 -- said the feelings had been "brewing for a long time."
"Increasingly, the only voices that are heard in the statehouse are those of polarization," he told the Daily Herald Thursday. "I can't be effective with a moderate voice, and I will not stay if I'm not effective."
Andersson, one of a dozen Republicans to side with Democrats last month in passing a state budget and income tax increase that GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner opposed, says he plans to step down when his term ends in 18 months.
Days after that vote, Andersson was removed from his spot as a House Republican floor leader -- a move he said wasn't entirely unwelcome.
"I tried three times to resign from that leadership post," Andersson said, noting House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs initially had been unwilling to accept the offer, but changed his mind following the budget vote in July.
Andersson said he's spent the last six weeks reflecting on the toxic atmosphere at the divided state Capitol and considering whether he could get much accomplished amid partisan infighting between Rauner and the Democratic-led legislature.
"I didn't see that improving," he said, noting that as a self-described moderate Republican, "I didn't feel I would have very much effectiveness inside that (GOP) caucus."
Andersson said he has no regrets about his decision to cross the aisle to vote with Democrats for the budget. However, he said, "I'm really a policy guy, and the atmosphere down here today is 99 percent politics."
Andersson joins a host of moderates from the suburbs who won't be seeking re-election. Northbrook Democratic Rep. Elaine Nekritz said in June she is stepping down. Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont left in June. Republican Reps. Patti Bellock of Hinsdale, Barb Wheeler of Crystal Lake and Bob Pritchard of Hinckley are also not running for re-election.
"Time after time, I was told hold your powder," Andersson said of the state's long-standing budget impasse and fight over an education funding formula. "And I had faith at first that something could be done. But now we're into our third year, and everything's starting to collapse."
Andersson, a lawyer, said he plans to continue to work at his law practice and volunteer in the area of mental health.