State Sen. James Meeks, the pastor of a large South Side congregation and a strong voice for education, has decided not to run for re-election, a spokeswoman confirmed Thursday.
Meeks, 55, the senior pastor at Salem Baptist Church, plans to finish the term that ends in January 2013, according Tasha Harris, a top Meeks aide. Meeks has been a senator since 2003.
Unafraid to drive home a point, Meeks once underscored his fight to rectify the wide disparities in school funding between poor and rich school districts by organizing busloads of Chicago students to skip their classes in the city and try to register at North Shore schools. In Springfield, he has fought to improve education and boost funding while serving on the Senate Education Committee, including in his role as the panel’s chairman.
Meeks is the second Senate Democrat this week to announce a departure from politics. Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston, said he would be moving on to expand his role as a philanthropic adviser to the Pritzker Family Foundation.
Meeks has flirted with running for higher office, including a short-lived candidacy for Chicago mayor last year. It was the second time Meeks pulled back from running for mayor. In 2006, Meeks threatened to challenge fellow Democrat Rod Blagojevich for governor in an independent bid before backing away.