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North Side state senator to resign after helping pass landmark social legislation: It’s time for ‘fresh eyes and fresh energy’

State Sen. Heather Steans said it’s “been the privilege of a lifetime to represent the most diverse Senate district in the State of Illinois” and it’s “time to pass the baton.”

State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, right; with state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, at a news conference in 2017.
State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, right; with state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, at a news conference in 2017.
James Foster/Sun-Times file

A North Side Democrat announced Tuesday that she was resigning from the state Senate after a 12-year tenure that saw her play a key role in legalizing same-sex marriage and recreational marijuana.

In a news release Tuesday afternoon, state Sen. Heather Steans said it’s “been the privilege of a lifetime to represent the most diverse Senate district in the State of Illinois,” and it’s “time to pass the baton.”

State Rep. Greg Harris, who served as majority leader in the previous General Assembly, and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy represent the area in the state House, and both North Side Democrats could be considered for the Senate seat if interested.

CapitolFax reported that Cassidy intends to seek the appointment to the seat. She did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Asked about whether or not he intends to seek the appointment, Harris gave an emphatic “no.”

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy speaks with reporters in 2018.
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy speaks with reporters in 2018.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Steans said she thinks it’s time for “fresh eyes and fresh energy” in the district, which includes portions of the Uptown, Ravenswood, Edgewater, Andersonville and Rogers Park neighborhoods.

“I feel that I have gotten a lot accomplished and I think someone will be able to come in,” and continue to move the district forward, Steans said.

Steans’ resignation will take effect Jan. 31. Her successor will be chosen by a group of committeepeople from the Cook County Democratic Party. The appointed person would need a majority of the weighted vote of those committeepeople to serve out the remaining two years of Steans’ term and would have to run in the 2022 election to retain the seat.

Cassidy — whose district includes Rogers Park, Edgewater and part of Andersonville — has the third largest total of the weighted vote.

Steans introduced and helped pass legislation legalizing same-sex marriage during her tenure in office.

She also sponsored and shepherded legislation that ensures abortion access remains legal in Illinois if Roe v. Wade is overturned at the federal level, and played key roles in expanding access to health care as well as the state’s cannabis legalization law, which Steans wrote and helped pass through the Senate.