Pictured State Rep. Larry McKeon with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan last fall, when he announced his bid to run for re-election. Photo by Andrew Davis
In a stunning statement issued July 31, longtime Illinois State Rep. Larry McKeon, D-Chicago, announced his plans to retire from office in January, 2007, after 42 years of public service.
He was first elected State Representative for the 13th District in 1996. The openly gay state legislator is currently serving his fifth term as a representative to the Illinois General Assembly.
'I've thought about this a long time,' he told Windy City Times. 'Within the last two weeks I made a decision.'
McKeon has recommended to the five Democratic committeemen that represent portions of the 13th representative district that attorney and community leader Jim Snyder be appointed to replace him on the November general election ballot. ( The person on the ballot will run unopposed. ) Snyder is currently general counsel at the Illinois Commission on Human Rights. 'I took a careful look at the needs of the district and recommended Jim Snyder. He can fulfill the needs of this diverse community,' McKeon told Windy City Times.
McKeon notified the state Board of Elections on July 28 that he is withdrawing his nomination for the general election in November. Illinois state law requires the Democratic committeemen representing portions of the representative district to meet within 30 days of the vacancy to elect a Democratic nominee for the November general election ballot. Their nomination and candidate documents must be filed at the Illinois Board of Elections office in Springfield by Aug. 31.
Snyder possesses a varied résumé. For five years following law school, Snyder served as an attorney for the Chicago Housing Authority, where he worked to evict gangbangers and drug dealers. He also is a founding member of the board of directors of AIDS Care and serves as general counsel for the Illinois Human Rights Commission, where he has also been appointed co-chair of the Governor's Civil Rights Transition and Alcohol and Substance Abuse Recovery committees. Snyder aided in the passage of the amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act that bans discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity. He also is the chairman of Fair Illinois, which was formed in response to the efforts of Protect Marriage Illinois to put an anti-gay marriage referendum on the November ballot.
McKeon himself has been beset by several physical ailments. Diagnosed with HIV [ and, now, AIDS ] over 20 years ago, McKeon also battled rectal cancer last year. However, he was cancer-free by the time he announced his re-election campaign on Oct. 10, 2005. 'I can't say that [ my health ] hasn't played a role,' he told Windy City Times. 'However, it's just one of many factors. Before the cancer diagnosis, I had comtemplated retiring. Actually, the cancer is gone, my T cells are going up and my viral loads are going down. It's just that I'm 62 years old and I've been a public servant for 42 years; it's time for me to take time for myself. Also, I found out that working an extra year or two wouldn't do much regarding my retirement income; that played a role, too.'
Prior to his election to the Illinois House of Representatives, he was a director at the City of Chicago's Commission on Human Relation and Mayor Richard M. Daley's liaison to the Chicago's gay and lesbian communities, among other things. McKeon has been active in numerous community and advocacy organizations in the 13th District and surrounding area, including the Ravenswood Community Council and Ravenswood Industrial Council. He also serves on the Advisory Council of the Center on Halsted and has served as a board member of Horizons and the Alexian Brothers Bonaventure House. He is also a founding member of the Illinois Coalition Against Handgun Violence and is a lifetime member of the Illinois Coalition of Persons with Disabilities.
As for his future, McKeon indicated in the statement that he will begin a 'working retirement' advocating for community organizations and public policies involving issues such as housing, economic development, human rights and healthcare. He also told Windy City Times that he plans on doing everything from writing to travelling to, hopefully, part-time teaching.
In the statement, McKeon said that ' [ s ] erving as state representative for the last ten years has been a privilege and special honor. I hope that in some small way, I have made a difference in the lives of my constituents and for all people of Illinois. Whatever people may credit me for accomplishing as a member of the General Assembly is a result of the many outstanding people that I have been privileged to work with [ including ] the residents of the 13th district, the many volunteers and donors and my colleagues in the Illinois General Assembly for their generous support and counsel.'