One of the most charismatic figures in Illinois politics announced his retirement suddenly on Thursday afternoon. Rickey Hendon will step down after 18 years in the state legislature.
Hendon, the state senator from the 5th District, representing Chicago's South Side, appears to be retiring out of frustration with the results of Chicago's mayoral election on Tuesday. Carol Moseley Braun, the "consensus" black candidate, came in a disappointing fourth place, while Rahm Emanuel won strong support from the black community.
"Tuesday was a Black political disaster! I can't take it anymore," Hendon said via text message, according to NBC Chicago.
Among legislative circles, Hendon was known as "Hollywood" for his outspoken and colorful nature. Characteristically, he made the news during the November election cycle for describing Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady as an "idiotic, racist, sexist, homophobic person."
He also gave one of the most impassioned defenses of gay rights during the Illinois legislature's debate of a law allowing civil unions, which ultimately passed. "It's just fairness, y'all. That's all," Hendon said.
The senator was himself briefly a candidate for Chicago mayor after the retirement of Richard M. Daley. Describing the grass-roots candidacy he planned to mount, Hendon said, "I'm like the black Sarah Palin." But he withdrew from the contest and instead decided to lend his support to a single consensus candidate. African-American community leaders settled on Braun, but a poorly-run campaign and some high-profile gaffes cost her much of the black vote.
Federal subpoenas from August of last year implicated associates of Hendon in an investigation of misappropriated grant funds, but after a recent conversation with Hendon, Rich Miller of the Capitol Fax said "he appeared wholly unconcerned" about the investigation.
In a resignation letter to Senate President John Cullerton, Hendon wrote, "As much as I have enjoyed working with you and all of my fellow Senators I have decided to call it a day and retire from this wonderful institution."
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