Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 1992, 11th term.

Born: November 23, 1946, Albany, GA

Home: Chicago, IL

Education: Roosevelt U., B.A. 1973, U. of IL, M.A. 1994, McCormick Seminary, M.A. 1998

Professional Career: Member, Student Non–Violent Coord. Cmte., 1966–68; Co–founder, IL Black Panther Party, 1968; Med. clinic dir., 1970-1973; Insurance agent, 1978-83.

Ethnicity: Black/African American

Religion: Baptist

Family: Married (Carolyn Thomas) , 7 children (1 deceased)

Once a Black Panther and prison inmate, Democrat Bobby Rush was elected in 1992 and is now an elder liberal statesman of Chicago’s sharp-edged political scene. He also likely will go down in history as the only politician ever to beat Barack Obama in an election.

Rush grew up on the North Side, a Boy Scout whose mother was a Republican precinct captain. While in the Army, he became involved in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the South, then became disillusioned with the military and went AWOL in 1968. That year, he founded the Illinois Black Panthers, with its “Power to the People” slogan, and recruited Fred Hampton, who became chairman of the organization but was later killed by police in a 1969 raid. The next day, police raided Rush’s family’s apartment, but he wasn’t there. Rush served six months in prison for illegal possession of firearms. Also during his time with the Black Panthers, he ran a program providing free breakfasts to children and a medical clinic that developed the nation’s first mass sickle-cell-anemia testing program. “I don’t repudiate any of my involvement in the Panther party. It was part of my maturing,” Rush later said. Ordained as a Baptist minister, Rush founded a church in 2002 in the depressed Englewood community, but it struggled financially.

In 1983, he was elected the 2nd Ward alderman on the Chicago City Council and became a strong supporter of Harold Washington, who became mayor. As he built a career in politics, Rush went back to school and earned master’s degrees in political science and theological studies. In 1992, he challenged Democratic U.S. Rep. Charles Hayes, an older-generation politician with a union background. Just before the primary, it was revealed that Hayes had 716 overdrafts on the House bank, a practice among lawmakers that blossomed into a national scandal. Rush won 42%-39%.

In the House, Rush has a liberal voting record. His rhetoric has softened over the years, and his more deliberate style contrasts sharply with his days as a Panther. But he does sometimes chafe at legislative compromises. He backed the 2010 health care overhaul law, but only after sending mixed signals because of his unhappiness over the removal of a provision that reimburses hospitals for indigent care.

Gun violence caused great pain to Rush in 1999, when his son, Huey Rich, was murdered by a man wielding a handgun as he returned to his South Side home with his fiancée. After 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot dead in Florida in February 2012 in an incident that set off a national debate about race, Rush took to the House floor wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt—Martin’s garb at the time of his death—in protest. “Just because someone is a young black male and wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum,” he said.

In recent years, he has devoted much of his time to the Energy and Commerce Committee, where he chaired the Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection Subcommittee until Democrats lost control of the House in 2011. He became the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Power Subcommittee. When gasoline prices soared in early 2012, he called for an investigation into the potential role of Wall Street speculators. At a congressional forum on college sports in November 2011, he compared the National Collegiate Athletic Association to the Mafia for what he called its abysmal treatment of student athletes.

Rush waged a quixotic campaign in 1999 against Richard M. Daley’s iron grip on the mayor’s office. He was a frequent Daley critic, and during the campaign he attacked the mayor for tolerating police brutality, inadequate mass transit service, and cronyism in city government. Only three of the 50 aldermen endorsed him, and although Rush tried to build a multiracial coalition, his only chance was with black voters.Daley was popular, and his financial advantage overwhelming. The incumbent won the primary 72%-28%, with nearly 45% of the African-American vote and the support of many prominent black ministers.

After that pounding, Rush found himself challenged in his own reelection primary in 2000 by two state senators—Donne Trotter and the then little-known Barack Obama. Obama waged an aggressive campaign, saying at the time that Rush “exemplifies a politics that is reactive, that waits for crises to happen, then holds a press conference, and hasn’t been particularly effective at building broad-based coalitions.” But Obama came under attack for being absent from the state legislature for two months and missing a vote on a gun control bill while on a family trip to Hawaii, where he was raised. “It was a race in which everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” Obama later wrote in his book, The Audacity of Hope. Rush was also helped by an endorsement from President Bill Clinton. He beat Obama 61%-30%.

Surely not by coincidence, redistricting in 2002 shifted Obama’s Hyde Park home two blocks outside the new lines and removed the 19th Ward, which he had carried. Rush has been routinely reelected since then, although the Chicago Tribune, in endorsing his Republican opponent Donald Peloquin in 2012, complained he has become complacent and doesn’t return calls from mayors in some of his district’s small towns.

When Obama ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, Rush backed Democrat Blair Hull, who finished third in the primary. Afterward, he endorsed Obama. During Obama’s pitched battle with Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary four years later, Rush again endorsed Obama, calling it “one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in politics.”

In other political machinations in recent years, Rush in 2008 pushed to ensure that President-elect Obama’s vacant Senate seat went to an African-American. He applauded Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s appointment of Roland Burris, and then, when Burris declined to run for reelection in 2010, he backed former Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Robinson Jackson. After Jackson finished third in the Senate primary, Rush declined for months to endorse the winner, state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who is white. He finally did so in October. After Daley announced he wouldn’t run for reelection as mayor, Rush in early 2011 joined other black Democratic leaders in backing former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun. The job ultimately went to former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

Rush had a brush with cancer in 2008. He was absent from Capitol Hill for much of the year recovering from salivary gland cancer and surgery to remove a tumor near his jaw. Doctors later ruled him cancer free.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-4372

(202) 226-0333

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2188
Washington, DC 20515-1301

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-4372

(202) 226-0333

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2188
Washington, DC 20515-1301

DISTRICT OFFICE

(773) 224-6500

(773) 224-9624

700 East 79th Street
Chicago, IL 60619-3102

DISTRICT OFFICE

(773) 224-6500

(773) 224-9624

700 East 79th Street
Chicago, IL 60619-3102

DISTRICT OFFICE

(708) 385-9550

(708) 385-3860

3235 - 147th Street
Midlothian, IL 60445-3656

DISTRICT OFFICE

(708) 385-9550

(708) 385-3860

3235 - 147th Street
Midlothian, IL 60445-3656

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

3534 South Calumet Avenue
Chicago, IL 60653

EXPORT CONTACTS » *

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Essence Motley
Assistant to the Congressman; Staff Assistant

Aerospace

Nishith Pandya
Senior Legislative Assistant

Agriculture

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Nishith Pandya
Senior Legislative Assistant

Animal Rights

Essence Motley
Assistant to the Congressman; Staff Assistant

Appropriations

Stanley Watkins
Chief of Staff

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Arts

John Marshall
Policy Coordinator

johnm@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4372

Dennis Hawkins
Constituent Services Associate

Banking

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Robyn Wheeler-Grange
District Director

Budget

Stanley Watkins
Chief of Staff

Campaign

Stanley Watkins
Chief of Staff

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Census

Stanley Watkins
Chief of Staff

Commerce

John Marshall
Policy Coordinator

johnm@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4372

Nishith Pandya
Senior Legislative Assistant

Communication

John Marshall
Policy Coordinator

johnm@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4372

Debra Johnson
Communications Director

Consumers

John Marshall
Policy Coordinator

johnm@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4372

Economics

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Education

John Marshall
Policy Coordinator

johnm@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4372

Dennis Hawkins
Constituent Services Associate

Energy

John Marshall
Policy Coordinator

johnm@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4372

Environment

John Marshall
Policy Coordinator

johnm@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4372

Family

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Finance

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Robyn Wheeler-Grange
District Director

Foreign

Nishith Pandya
Senior Legislative Assistant

Govt Ops

John Marshall
Policy Coordinator

johnm@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4372

Nishith Pandya
Senior Legislative Assistant

Robyn Wheeler-Grange
District Director

Gun Issues

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

John Marshall
Policy Coordinator

johnm@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4372

Health

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

John Marshall
Policy Coordinator

johnm@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4372

Dennis Hawkins
Constituent Services Associate

Homeland Security

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

John Marshall
Policy Coordinator

johnm@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4372

Nishith Pandya
Senior Legislative Assistant

Housing

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Dottie Hall
Constituent Services Associate

Dennis Hawkins
Constituent Services Associate

Human Rights

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Nishith Pandya
Senior Legislative Assistant

Immigration

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Younus Suleman
Deputy District Director

Intelligence

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Nishith Pandya
Senior Legislative Assistant

Intergovernmental

Dottie Hall
Constituent Services Associate

Internet

John Marshall
Policy Coordinator

johnm@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4372

Debra Johnson
Communications Director

Judiciary

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

John Marshall
Policy Coordinator

johnm@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4372

Rosemary Hall
Executive Assistant

rosemaryh@mail.house.gov
(773) 224-6500

Labor

Stanley Watkins
Chief of Staff

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Dennis Hawkins
Constituent Services Associate

Medicare

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Essence Motley
Assistant to the Congressman; Staff Assistant

Military

Nishith Pandya
Senior Legislative Assistant

Robyn Wheeler-Grange
District Director

Native Americans

Nishith Pandya
Senior Legislative Assistant

Essence Motley
Assistant to the Congressman; Staff Assistant

Public Works

Stanley Watkins
Chief of Staff

Science

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Nishith Pandya
Senior Legislative Assistant

Seniors

Dottie Hall
Constituent Services Associate

Small Business

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Social Security

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Tax

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Robyn Wheeler-Grange
District Director

Younus Suleman
Deputy District Director

Technology

John Marshall
Policy Coordinator

johnm@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4372

Nishith Pandya
Senior Legislative Assistant

Dennis Hawkins
Constituent Services Associate

Telecommunications

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

John Marshall
Policy Coordinator

johnm@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4372

Trade

John Marshall
Policy Coordinator

johnm@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-4372

Nishith Pandya
Senior Legislative Assistant

Transportation

Stanley Watkins
Chief of Staff

Veterans

Nishith Pandya
Senior Legislative Assistant

Robyn Wheeler-Grange
District Director

Welfare

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Dennis Hawkins
Constituent Services Associate

Essence Motley
Assistant to the Congressman; Staff Assistant

Women

Yardly Pollas-Kimble
Legislative Director

Essence Motley
Assistant to the Congressman; Staff Assistant

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Bobby Rush
Votes: 236,854
Percent: 73.82%
Donald Peloquin
Votes: 83,989
Percent: 26.18%
2012 PRIMARY
Bobby Rush
Votes: 64,533
Percent: 83.85%
2010 GENERAL
Bobby Rush
Votes: 148,170
Percent: 80.36%
Raymond Wardingley
Votes: 29,253
Percent: 15.87%
2010 PRIMARY
Bobby Rush
Votes: 68,585
Percent: 79.7%
Joanne Guillemette
Votes: 8,035
Percent: 9.34%
Fred Smith
Votes: 5,203
Percent: 6.05%
2008 GENERAL
Bobby Rush
Votes: 233,036
Percent: 85.87%
Antoine Members
Votes: 38,361
Percent: 14.13%
2008 PRIMARY
Bobby Rush
Votes: 134,343
Percent: 87.45%
William Walls
Votes: 19,272
Percent: 12.55%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (80%), 2008 (86%), 2006 (84%), 2004 (85%), 2002 (81%), 2000 (88%), 1998 (87%), 1996 (86%), 1994 (76%), 1992 (83%)

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