Senators Link and Holmes say they were surprised by Cullerton's retirement announcement
Two top Democratic state senators from the suburbs said they were surprised by Senate President John Cullerton's decision to retire from the legislature.
Neither Assistant Majority Leader Terry Link of Indian Creek nor Majority Caucus Whip Linda Holmes of Aurora said they knew of Cullerton's plans before his bombshell announcement Thursday.
And neither of them is interested in replacing Cullerton as leader of the 59-member Senate.
Cullerton has held the post for 11 years as part of a 40-year career in the General Assembly. His current term in the Senate was scheduled to end in 2023.
Despite a close professional relationship with the Senate president, Link admitted Cullerton's announcement caught him unawares.
"I think the only one who wasn't surprised was John himself," Link said Friday.
Likewise, Holmes said she was "stunned" by the news.
"(I) didn't expect it," she said.
Cullerton represents the state's 6th Senate District, which includes Chicago's North and Northwest sides. It'll be up to Democratic leaders to choose a new senator for the district and up to the entire Senate to choose its next president.
Link doesn't want the big chair.
"Absolutely, positively no," said Link, who first was elected to represent the 30th District in 1996. "I will be 73 in March, and my day in the sun is coming to an end one of these days, too."
Link said he expected to speak with Cullerton about his pending departure Friday. When asked if he knew why Cullerton was resigning, Link suggested changes in atmosphere and attitudes in Springfield may have been factors.
"The lay of the land is, going down there is not the most fun in the world," Link said.
Like Link, Holmes said she isn't pursuing the Senate presidency.
"It's not something I'm seriously considering at this point," she said. "It takes an enormous amount of time, and it cuts into your personal life in a huge way."
Holmes said she had assumed Cullerton would stay in the Senate at least through the redistricting process that will follow the 2020 U.S. census. Stepping down now gives his eventual replacement time to get acclimated in Springfield and build a leadership team, she said.
A change in leadership can be beneficial, said Holmes, who first was elected to represent the 42nd District in 2007.
"It doesn't hurt to get fresh ideas and a fresh viewpoint on managing a large caucus," she said, referring to the 40 Democrats in the Senate. "I think it will be refreshing."