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Sneed exclusive: Could Rush be ready to step down?

Longtime Congressman Bobby Rush could be facing a primary challenge. | Brian Jackson/SunTimes

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Rush to judgment . . .

Is U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush finally considering pulling the plug on a job he’s held since 1993?

Sneed hears Rush, the former Black Panther Party member who has held political sway in Illinois for decades despite recent bouts of bad health, has a challenger who is already circulating nominating petitions.

Again.

Sneed has learned Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st), who was elected to the City Council in 2003, has not only voiced interest in the past about running for Rush’s seat — but is once again initiating an opening bid for Rush’s seat.

“He is circulating nominating petitions in the 1st Congressional District,” said a top Sneed source. “I’ve seen them.”

“No one needs to file the 1,314 nominating petition signatures for the 1st congressional primary with the State Board of Elections until later this month,” said an election board source. “The election is next March.”

“But if Bobby Rush doesn’t run, it could be a slam dunk for the Dem primary winner,” he added.

OPINION

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Brookins, who has coveted Rush’s job for years, did not return Sneed’s phone call.

Neither did Congressman Rush.

It’s not the first time Brookins attempted to run for Rush’s congressional seat.

Back in November 2013, Rush called Sneed blasting Brookins for circulating nominating petitions for his job while Rush’s wife was seriously ill — following criticism Rush seemed to be on permanent leave.

“I’ve been hit with bad news,” he told Sneed back then.

“While I’m attending to my wife in intensive care, Ald. Howard Brookins, a man I considered a friend and a colleague, is running for my job.”

“Brookins, a man I supported for public office, is now circulating his nominating petitions for my job while I’m going through one of the most difficult times of my life,” said Rush, whose wife, Carolyn, had been at the University of Chicago hospital convalescing from open heart surgery complication.

“It makes you wonder what are friends for when this kind of thing happens,” said Rush. “A cynical man would say, ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’ But I am not a cynic.”

Rush then reflected on the time his son was killed in 1999 “when Barack Obama ran against me.”

Then Rush opined: “When I was battling cancer it was rumored Jesse Jackson Jr. was planning to run against me . . . although he denied it publicly.”

Brookins told Sneed back then: “He [Rush] has been on indefinite leave. There is a deadline for filing nominating petitions in early December. I don’t know what his thoughts are. But I respect him and if he decides to run, I won’t.”

Rush countered via Sneed’s column. “I am definitely running!”

It made Sneed wonder why Brookins didn’t just ask Rush.

Right now Rush’s silence seems deafening.

Rush was probed by the Office of Congressional Ethics stemming from a Sun-Times/BGA report in 2013 that Rush had to pay no rent for years for his campaign office — and that another nonprofit started by Rush got $1 million from the charitable arm of what’s now AT&T in what turned out to be a failed effort to create a “technology center” in Englewood.

The OCE ultimately decided against a full-blown probe last year.

In late September, the Sun-Times Watchdogs and the BGA disclosed Rush has a family member who for years has worked for his church, but been paid by a campaign supporter and friend in what could be a violation of congressional ethics rules.

As the congressional investigators were digging into Rush’s finances last year, they discovered Rush’s niece had been working nearly full time since 2011 for her uncle’s Beloved Community Christian Church on the South Side as an office manager. Rush, who is a minister, founded and runs the church at 6430 S. Harvard.

Earlier this year, a federal judge sentenced Curtis V. Thompson Jr., Brookins’ former chief of staff, to 15 months in prison for taking a $7,500 cash bribe at a 2013 Christmas party . . . and there were whispers of a wire being used.

Stay tuned.

Follow Sneed on Twitter: @Sneedlings