Illinois Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election in 2018.
He immediately threw his support behind Cook County Commissioner Jesús “Chuy” Garcia to succeed him in the 4th District.
“I’m going to leave Congress at the end of my term in 2019. But I’m not retiring,” Gutiérrez said at a press conference at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant in Chicago.
“I’m not giving up in the fight for equality for immigrants, Latinos, women, for fighting for the LGBTQ community, the environment and racial justice,” the 13-term congressman said.
Gutiérrez serves on the Judiciary Committee and chairs the immigration task forces for the Democratic Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He’s been an outspoken advocate for a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws.
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A frequent critic of President Donald Trump, he’s twice been arrested at immigrants’ rights protests since Trump took office.
“I’d be a candidate, but I don’t have to be a candidate,” Gutiérrez said Tuesday, with Garcia standing behind him.
“Why? Because there’s somebody who’s going to bring new energy, new vision, a new touch to the 4th Congressional District,” Gutiérrez said.
Garcia began printing petitions to collect signatures Monday night. The filing period for petitions to get on the ballot opened Monday and ends Dec. 4.
Gutiérrez and Garcia haven’t always been on the same side in Democratic politics. Gutiérrez stood with Rahm Emanuel over Garcia in the 2015 Chicago mayoral runoff election.
Asked about that decision Tuesday, Gutiérrez recalled how difficult it was for him and his family. But he said that since Garcia entered the race late, he had had to honor his commitment to Emanuel. The congressman praised Garcia for standing with him on issues, citing their shared opposition to NAFTA.
Gutiérrez was a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton during last year’s Democratic presidential primary. Garcia backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who publicly endorsed Garcia in Chicago days before his mayoral runoff with Emanuel.
Garcia alluded to Sanders Tuesday, saying he is “proud to be part of the new revolution that is sweeping the nation.”
Puerto Rico will remain one of Gutiérrez’s biggest priorities after leaving Congress.
“I’m going to spend a lot of time rebuilding my island,” he said. He ruled out relocating there, saying “Chicago is my home.”
Gutiérrez also plans to travel the country. “We’re going to talk to people about how we build the infrastructure for the 2020 election,” he said, ignoring a shouted question about whether he’ll be going to New Hampshire and Iowa.
Gutiérrez said he’s not interested in running for mayor, but he did not rule out running for public office in the future.
“This is my time to move on. I’m batting 100,” Gutiérrez said, joking that it’s refreshing to see members depart Congress while they still have hair and aren’t on respirators.
“Congress isn’t for an eternity; it’s for a time,” Gutiérrez said. “Be happy for me. Be happy for my family, because that’s really what it’s about.”
Gutiérrez is the 17th current member of the House to announce he won’t seek re-election and isn’t running for another office.