Leaving job early breaks trust with voters

The 89th District state representative will resign after serving 9 months of a 2-year term to pursue a new political opportunity. Jim Sacia’s decision deprives constituents of his experience and breaks faith with them.

Published: Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Last November, 41,340 people voted to re-elect state Rep. Jim Sacia to a sixth 2-year term representing the 89th District in the Illinois House of Representatives, which includes portions of Whiteside, Carroll and Ogle counties.

As soon as next week, six people will decide who will replace Sacia, who has resigned as of Sept. 30.

Which example looks more like democracy?

That’s what we thought, too.

Sacia, a Republican from Pecatonica, recently announced that he will step down from his House seat. He explained his reasoning in one of his weekly columns.

Sacia said his job is still rewarding but that he is considering a possible run for a different office. The period to pass petitions has begun, with the filing deadline on Dec. 2. Given that situation, he said he would not want to divide his time between representing the district, which he considers a full-time effort, and pursuing higher office.

The lawmaker mentioned that he had promised, when first elected in 2002, to serve only six terms. Based on that pledge, voters knew this term was his final one.

He also mentioned that, as a lame-duck lawmaker, he had lost some “horsepower,” presumably meaning influence.

“A lame duck seeking another office takes a great deal away from the job. Thus, I owe it to you to move on,” Sacia wrote.

We have previously expressed our opinion that elected officials who quit midterm do a disservice to their constituents.

While we believe Sacia is sincere in his reasoning, our opinion still stands.

By his last day in office Sept. 30, Sacia will have served 9 months of his 24-month term.

Had Sacia informed voters last year that he intended to serve only 37 percent of the term they were electing him to, at least they would have known what they were getting. To our knowledge, that didn’t happen.

Instead, the choice made by 41,340 people will be voided – including 4,284 voters in Carroll County, 3,983 voters in Ogle County, and 945 voters in Whiteside County.

GOP county chairmen in the district’s six counties will decide who, among the 13 applicants, will serve the remainder (63 percent) of Sacia’s term.

While that is the established practice, it just doesn’t sound like democracy to us.

Elected officials sometimes step down because of illness, relocating elsewhere, or winning election to a higher post. We understand that.

When the decision to quit is based purely on politics, however, we believe it breaks the trust between voters and the person they elected to represent them.

Sacia’s 10 years and 9 months of experience in the Legislature will be lost to 89th District residents. Whoever takes his place must start from scratch in the continuing effort to confront Illinois’ many thorny problems.

Sacia has made a name for himself as a strong advocate for his district and a fearless critic of the state’s Democratic leadership. He apparently hopes to use this experience to move up the political ladder.

But 41,340 Sacia voters may be left with a little more doubt and a little less trust when the next election arrives.

The lesson for the electorate: Before voting for lawmakers, ask whether they intend to finish the jobs they start.

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