Metro-East News

Region losing another Senate heavyweight as Clayborne says he won’t seek re-election

State Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, announced Thursday he is not running for re-election, capping 22 years in the state Senate.

“I am going to focus on my family and my life out of public service,” Clayborne said. “I look forward to this new chapter in my life and would once again like to thank the people of the 57th District for allowing me to be their voice in Springfield.”

Clayborne, the Democratic majority leader in the Senate, has been in the state Senate since 1995. The district is located primarily in St. Clair County, while also containing parts of Madison County.

Clayborne, 53, has served as the Senate majority leader since 2009.

“I want to thank my constituents over the years for allowing me to serve them in Springfield. In collaboration with my constituents we have worked together to improve the quality of life in the 57th Senatorial District by increasing education funding, building new schools and improving access to technology in the classroom,” Clayborne said.

He added, “Additionally, we have worked together to provide greater resources through grants to our local police and fire departments to improve public safety. Our hard work has led to an improved transportation system and increased economic opportunities for all.”

Clayborne was born in 1963 and attended college at Tennessee State University and the University of Miami. He was a private attorney and a former St. Clair County assistant state’s attorney before his election.

Clayborne’s decision means the metro-east is losing two powerful state senators who are members of the Democratic party that controls the state legislature. Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, announced recently that he will not seek re-election in 2018. Haine who has been in the Senate since 2002, was diagnosed earlier this year with blood cancer.

Clayborne had been in a close election in 2014, when he defeated Katherine Ruocco 30,624 votes to 28,486 votes to win another term.

Had Clayborne decided to run in the 2018 election, he most likely would have run against Air Force reservist Tanya Hildenbrand, a Belleville Republican, in the general election. She is seeking the Republican nomination.

“I think Sen. Clayborne based (the decision) on the last election results,” Hildenbrand said. “He’s extremely vulnerable.”

“The fact he voted present and didn’t take a stand on the last school funding bill was the indicator there was something going on in his election decision-making,” Hildenbrand added.

Hildenbrand said she still expects a Democrat to run in Clayborne’s place, but added she did not know who would step in.

“I think Democrats realize the citizens of Illinois are frustrated with long-term career politicians,” Hildenbrand said. “Sen. Clayborne has been in office for over 22 years. His decisions have resulted in the problems we’re facing here in Illinois.”

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter