State Sen. Robert Peters (D-13th) will seek reelection to Springfield this June and began collecting petitions in Hyde Park on the morning of Thursday, Jan. 13. He has decided against a run for Congress to succeed U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st).
"I want to make sure that I stay in Springfield and continue doing the work that expands on the Black Caucus' pillars. I really didn't want to risk it to go to D.C. right now, where there's a risk of being in the minority party," he said.
"My main focus is representing the 13th District, to continue to expand on the 30 bills that I was able to pass over the last three years and continue to expand on the Black Caucus pillars, like to continue to push to make public safety for all a thing."
Democratic ward committeepersons appointed Peters, 36, to his seat in 2019; he succeeded now-Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who is also seeking reelection this year.
The left-wing activist became a legislative workhorse in the statehouse, chiefly around criminal justice issues and the issues related to the Illinois Department of Children and Families. He is the Senate chair of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and a born-and-raised Hyde Parker.
"The main thing here is all I want to do is be effective as possible, and all I care about is being able to move policy and that I'm able to continue the good work that we've been doing alongside community organizations and advocacy works when it comes to the bills that we were able to pass," he said. "Whether that comes to the state Senate, Congress, alderman or whatever, at the end of the day, the most important thing for someone in public office is to be effective, efficient and progressive."
"I've been working alongside a group of advocates and community organizations," he said when asked why he deserves reelection. He pointed to his legislation that implements a statewide program for sending out first responders to deal with mental health emergencies, $250 million in the Reimagine Public Safety Plan for, in its first of three years of funding, a new Department of Human Services Office of Firearm Violence Prevention that will distribute grants around violence prevention, youth development and intervention, and the banning of private immigration detention centers.
"All of that I would like to continue to push and continue to do," he said.
Attorney Ken Thomas, Peters' 2020 primary opponent, only lost that campaign by 6½ points. On Thursday, he was at the corner of Lake Park Avenue and 53rd Street as Peters collected signatures and had only good things to say about him.
"Robert has done a good job, and I've always maintained that many of the progressive policies that Robert has been advocating for and gotten enacted, I've supported," he said. "So when you can't beat him, join him!"
"I like his work in the public safety space. I feel like he's been a really good champion, and he's also a good guy. It's I think a good skill in politics to learn how to really work with people you've been against but also agree with on policy."
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, chair of the Cook County Democratic Party as well as the 4th Ward's committeewoman, recalled meeting Peters when he interned on her 2010 presidential campaign. She strongly supported his appointment to the legislature nine years after that.
"I'm really proud of the work that he's done in Springfield," she said. "I'm really proud of the work that he's done, especially the work that he's done last year around criminal justice and public safety issues. He was a leader in the state Senate on those matters, and that matters a lot to people in Cook County."
A member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Peters' decision not to seek the congressional seat leaves the political left without a primary candidate to succeed Rush, a 15-term congressman. When asked if any of the supposedly interested figures are of interest to him, Peters demurred.
Preckwinkle said she would have endorsed Peters for Congress had he ran for that seat; now that he won't, she said the 4th Ward Democratic Organization will make an endorsement decision. Asked whom she hopes wins the primary, she said, "A progressive Democrat."