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Local Editorials

Senate quitters do a disservice to constituents

Winners never quit, and quitters never win.

Coach Vince Lombardi’s legendary philosophy helped the Green Bay Packers win the first two Super Bowls.

In the realm of elected offices, however, sometimes winners do quit.

In recent years, we’ve witnessed a lot of that behavior by Illinois state senators.

A well-known state senator who had a very good reason to quit was then-state Sen. Barack Obama, D-Chicago. In November 2004, Obama won a U.S. Senate seat, so he had to quit the state Senate. Totally understandable.

Had state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, won last year’s race for governor, he would have had to quit the Senate.

State Sen. Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa, won the state treasurer’s race. He left the Senate in mid-term to take on his new responsibilities.

We accept such circumstances for resigning early.

Other state senators, some of whom represented portions of the Sauk Valley, didn’t have such good reasons to quit in mid-term.

In 2005, state Sen. Denny Jacobs, D-East Moline, left early.

In 2008, state Sen. Todd Sieben, R-Geneseo, likewise retired before his term ended.

In December, state Sen. Gary Dahl, R-Granville, resigned in mid-term.

And last week, state Sen. Brad Burzynski, R-Rochelle, announced that he would retire effective Feb. 14.

Early Senate retirees may say they want to spend more time with family, especially grandchildren, or take a new direction in their lives.

However they frame it, they are not keeping faith with the voters.

By seeking office, a candidate makes a contract with constituents to serve under the conditions of the office, which includes a fixed term – in this case, 4 years. That contract, a promise, actually, should be broken only under extraordinary circumstances, not merely for the convenience of the officeholder.

In the cases of Burzynski, Dahl, Sieben and Jacobs, certainly the idea of retirement didn’t suddenly occur to them. If they had it in mind to retire early, shouldn’t they have informed voters before their last elections?

We think so, because when a state senator quits, voters lose their voices in the process. The people don’t elect a replacement. Political party bosses decide.

Coach Lombardi had another saying: “Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.” Sadly, too many state senators have picked up that bad habit.

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