Illinois state Rep. Greg Harristhe first openly gay and HIV-positive state leader in the General Assemblyannounced that he won't seek re-election and will leave the House when his term expires in early 2023, The Chicago Tribune reported.
"When I stepped into this office 15 years ago, I was committed to making change," Harris said in a statement. "I wanted to improve the lives of LGBTQ folks, support our immigrant community, increase the diversity of our caucus and fight for those who for so long have been ignored. As I look back at my time in Springfield, I can confidently say that I was fortunate to do that and more."
Harris' decision to retire was part of the biennial exercise of evaluating whether to run for another term, he said. With the Democrats in Springfield "settling in" under the leadership of House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch, Senate President Don Harmon and Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Harris said, "it just seemed like a natural opportunity to move on and let other people have an opportunity to lead."
Harris represents the 13th District, which includes parts of the Uptown, Ravenswood, Lincoln Square, North Center, West Ridge and Bowmanville neighborhoods of Chicago.
According to Harris' official biography, he is chairman of the Rules Committee, and serves on the Appropriation—Human Services Committee and Wages and Rates Subcommittee. Harris is also is a member of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Leadership Council and the joint Legislative Health Insurance Exchange Committee. He also serves as chairman on the Violence Prevention Task Force and is a member of the Racial and Ethnic Impact Research Task Force, the Quality of Life Board and the House Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment.
Harris served for 14 years as chief of staff for Ald. Mary Ann Smith of Chicago's 48th Ward. He co-chaired the City of Chicago's Task Force on LGBT Substance Use/Abuse and was a member of the Crystal Meth Task Force. Also, he is a founder and first board president of both Open Hand Chicago and of AIDSWalk Chicago.
Illinois state Sen. Mike Simmons (D-Chicago) saluted Harris, calling him a legislative powerhouse in the General Assembly, a terrific friend and mentor, and a point of pride for so many in neighborhoods of the 13th House District, and the LGBTQ+ community across the state of Illinois, according to a press release Windy City Times received.
"Leader Harris has shown up and done the work for our communities, often without fanfare, and has made history on many occasions both in his legislative work and in blazing a trail as House Majority Leader," Simmons said. "He has always been a personal inspiration for me, and while I am sad that he will soon retire, I appreciate the keen example he has set for the next generation.
"Leader Harris has given back so much and I look forward to working with him over the next legislative session to deliver for our constituents back home. His legacy will certainly continue to shape my own career in public service. Thank you, Leader Harris. I am proud to call you my representative."