Rory Ellinger, one of the most progressive Democrats in Missouri's house of representatives, has formally announced he will not run for re-election in 2015 owing to health issues.
The announcement comes less than a week after he announced that he had filed for re-election. But the 72-year-old U. City Democrat says his doctor recommended that he focus on his health, so he decided to withdraw his name from contention.
"For the past four years I have been privileged to represent the people of Missouri's 86th District in the General Assembly," he said in a statement posted on Facebook Monday. "I have had the pleasure of working with dedicated public servants on both sides of the aisle and community leaders and activists in the communities that comprise the 86th District."
Ellinger says he will finish out the remainder of his term, which ends in January 2015.
A lawyer and civil-rights advocate for 30 years before turning to politics, Ellinger has built a reputation as one of the most liberal voices in the House, being consistent on issues like gun control and marijuana reform.
He took a lot of heat from Missourians for his attempt to institute HB 545, an assault-weapons ban that would have prohibited the sale, manufacture, importation and eventually possession of any such firearm. The attempt was more about making a point than making a law, and it had no chance of passing the anti-gun control House. In fact, Republicans literally shot the bill down.
Ellinger also made headway on marijuana reform by continually introducing several bills. Last summer, he introduced the state's first legalization bill, which would have restructured Missouri's laws to be similar to Colorado's. Before that, he introduced a decriminalization bill.
The legislation never got anywhere owing to House members who lack a certain level of sophistication, but Ellinger has continued to press the issue. This year, he plans to introduce a medical-marijuana bill, but the head of the judiciary committee, Republican Representative Stanley Cox, has yet to give it a hearing, despite publicly saying that he would be in favor of an "up and down vote" on marijuana reform.
Ellinger even recently called out Cox on Twitter:
But Cox has yet to respond.
Being one of the few progressive voices in the House, Ellinger admits that he hasn't been able to get much legislation through. But in his statement Monday, he said that his vote still matters, and he hopes his successor continues to be a voice that adequately represents what could be Missouri's most progressive district:
"In 2013 had just a very few votes changed, HB 253 would be in place today, bankrupting public education. Had a single vote changed, today we would criminalize law enforcement officers who enforced federal laws regarding machine guns. Had one vote changed we would institutionalize conspiracy theories regarding sharia law and the United Nations. When votes on legislation have razor thin margins, each individual vote becomes more, not less important."
Click on the next page for Ellinger's full statement...
Rep. Rory Ellinger's full statement regarding not to run for reelection, Monday, March 3, 2014:
I am announcing that I am withdrawing my candidacy for re-election
For the past four years I have been privileged to represent the people of Missouri's 86th District in the General Assembly. I have had the pleasure of working with dedicated public servants on both sides of the aisle and community leaders and activists in the communities that comprise the 86th District.
However, with great regret, today I am announcing that I will withdraw my candidacy for re-election. Late last week I received information from my cardiologist that in the future will require me to redirect my focus toward my health.
I am announcing my withdrawal today in order to provide as much time as possible for residents of the 86th District to consider running for this seat; filing closes March 25. However, my office remains open and we will continue legislative work until my term ends in January 2015.
I hope that whomever is chosen by the voters will carry on my commitment to helping the vulnerable and the powerless, to addressing issues of injustice and unfairness, and to representing the needs of all Missourians.
I am proud of the work we have done in the legislature during the past several years, including work on juvenile justice, the criminal code and healthcare.
I am disappointed that we have not yet expanded Medicaid to the hundreds of thousands of Missourians without coverage, and that we continue to spend more time on fringe issues than on core issues like jobs and healthcare.
Making good public policy is hard work. We live in a time of partisan polarization, but that is not the entire story. There are people of good will on both sides of the aisle with whom I share values and priorities, and work for the common cause.
My advice to my successor is that you can make a difference as a member of the minority party if you focus more on what Missourians need and stand on your principles. Seek out areas of agreement to move our laws forward, even a small amount.
People often have asked me whether they can make a difference as one single legislative vote, or as a member of the minority party. I tell them my vote has mattered.
In 2013 had just a very few votes changed, HB 253 would be in place today, bankrupting public education. Had a single vote changed, today we would criminalize law enforcement officers who enforced federal laws regarding machine guns. Had one vote changed we would institutionalize conspiracy theories regarding sharia law and the United Nations. When votes on legislation have razor thin margins, each individual vote becomes more, not less important.
The 86th may comprise the most progressive district in Missouri; that carries with it an obligation to stand for the rights of the vulnerable, the disenfranchised, and the marginalized.
Democrats believe our country is stronger when we all stand together, under a tent that crosses boundaries of geography, race, gender, religion, class, ability, and education. We believe we are a resilient nation that is at its best when we help each other. And we believe that active participation in the political system, beginning with an unfettered right to vote, is why democracy is thriving around the world.
I urge voters young and old, black and white, female and male, gay and straight to consider sharing their talents with their neighbors in the 86th District. There is much work to be done, and your state needs you.
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