Illinois Senate President John Cullerton to retire in January

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Senate President John Cullerton is stepping down.

He told Senate Democrats after the veto session ended Thursday.

71-year-old Cullerton has been serving as the Senate President for ten years. He’s been in state politics since 1979, first serving in the Illinois House; in 1991 Cullerton was elected to the Illinois Senate.

The Democrat, who also works as a Chicago attorney, took over the helm to lead Senate Democrats one decade ago after former Senate President Emil Jones retired.

Cullerton presided over the impeachment of former Governor Rod Blagojevich, enacted tougher regulations on tobacco products and raised the smoking age to 21, and negotiated the ‘Grand Bargain’ with former Governor Bruce Rauner that ultimately failed, but laid the groundwork for the state to end a two-year budget impasse. 

He has taken criticism in recent days for not pressuring some of his members to resign in the wake of a sprawling FBI probe. 
Senator Tom Cullerton, a Democrat from Villa Park and a distant cousin to the Senate President, faces federal indictment for allegedly taking payments from a teamsters union on a ghost payroll. 

FBI agents later raided the home and state offices of Senator Martin Sandoval, a Democrat from Cicero, though Sandoval has not yet been charged. Cullerton removed both members from their positions as chair of their respective committees but argued they deserved due process before being expelled or forced out of office. 

Another member, Senator Terry Link from Waukegan, was named by the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune as a government male who wore a wire to help the feds bust House Democrat Louis Arroyo for alleged bribery. Link denied any involvement, but Cullerton stepped in to help try and negotiate the final details of an agreement to establish a casino in Chicago. However, that deal fell apart in the waning hours of veto session Thursday night. 

The Senate President was recently awarded for his work on curbing tobacco use by the American Lung Association. 

At the time of this publication, Cullerton has not yet issued a statement or talk to the press about his sudden departure. According to sources familiar with his thinking, his original plan was to stay on as Senate president through the redistricting process in 2021. 

Before his career in politics, Cullerton was an Assistant Public Defender; he was also an instructor at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy.

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