|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Illinois's 1st district
January 3, 1993
|Member of the Chicago City Council|
from the 2nd Ward
Bobby Lee Rush|
November 23, 1946
Albany, Georgia, U.S.
(m. 1967; div. 1974)
(m. 1981; d. 2017)
Roosevelt University (BGS)|
University of Illinois at Chicago (MA)
McCormick Theological Seminary (MA)
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1963-1968|
Bobby Lee Rush (born November 23, 1946) is an American politician, civil rights leader and pastor. Rush is the U.S. Representative for Illinois's 1st congressional district, serving in Congress for more than two decades; he was first elected in 1992 and took office in 1993. He has since won consecutive re-election. The district was located principally on the South Side of Chicago, with a population from 2003 to early 2013 that was 65% African-American, a higher proportion than any other congressional district in the nation. In 2011 the Illinois General Assembly redistricted this area following the 2010 census. While still minority-majority, since early 2013 it is 51.3% African American, 9.8% Latino and 2% Asian. It re-elected Rush in 2016. A member of the Democratic Party, Rush is the only politician to have defeated Barack Obama in an election, which he did in the 2000 Democratic primary for Illinois' 1st congressional district. A civil rights activist during the 1960s, Rush became radicalized for a period and founded the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers.
Rush was born on November 23, 1946 in Albany, Georgia. After his parents separated when Rush was 7 years old, his mother took him and his siblings to Chicago, Illinois, joining the Great Migration of African Americans out of the South in the first part of the 20th century. In 1963 Rush dropped out of high school before graduating; he joined the U.S. Army. While stationed in Chicago in 1966, he joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which had helped obtain national civil rights legislation passed in 1964 and 1965. In 1968, he went AWOL from the Army and co-founded the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers. He later finished his service, receiving an honorable discharge from the Army.
Throughout the 1960s, Rush was involved in the civil rights movement and worked in civil disobedience campaigns in the southern United States. After co-founding the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968, he served as its defense minister. After Black Panther Fred Hampton was killed in a police raid, Rush said, "We needed to arm ourselves", and referred to the police as "pigs". Earlier that same year Rush had discussed the philosophy of his membership in the Black Panthers saying, "Black people have been on the defensive for all these years. The trend now is not to wait to be attacked. We advocate offensive violence against the power structure." After Hampton's death, Rush became acting chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party.
Rush worked on several non-violent projects that built support for the Black Panthers in African-American communities, such as coordinating a medical clinic which offered sickle-cell anemia testing on an unprecedented scale. Rush's own apartment was raided in December 1969, where police discovered an unregistered pistol, rifle, shotgun, pistol ammunition, training manuals on explosives, booby traps, an assortment of communist literature, and a small amount of marijuana. Rush was imprisoned for six months in 1972 on a weapons charge, after carrying a pistol into a police station. In 1974, he left the Panthers, who were already in decline. "We started glorifying thuggery and drugs", he told People magazine. Rush, a deeply religious born-again Christian, said, "I don't repudiate any of my involvement in the Panther party--it was part of my maturing."
In 1973, Rush earned his Bachelor of General Studies with honors from Roosevelt University, and a Master's degree in political science from University of Illinois at Chicago in 1974. He completed a degree in theological studies at McCormick Theological Seminary in 1978. On May 13, 2017 Rush received an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities, honoris causa, from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) for his outstanding contributions to Chicago.
In 1974, Rush ran for a seat on the Chicago City Council, the first of several black militants to seek political office, and was defeated.
In the early 1980s, however, Chicago's political life was transformed by the ascendancy of U.S. Representative Harold Washington, a noted orator and a charismatic figure who helped unite the city's African-American community. Washington was elected Mayor of Chicago in 1983, the first African American to hold the office. That same year, Rush was elected alderman from the Second Ward on Chicago's South Side. He was a part of the pro-Harold Washington faction on the Council during the "Council Wars" that began in 1983 following Washington's election as Mayor. The contest became racially polarized, with many white voters supporting a different candidate.
Rush's allies in the black-power movement abandoned the Democrats in the wake of the political turmoil that followed Washington's sudden death in 1987 and formed their own political party, naming it after the late mayor. Rush infuriated Harold Washington Party leaders by spurning their candidates for local offices and, on occasion, backing white Democrats instead. Rush worked with the regular Democrats and was rewarded with the deputy chairmanship of the state party.
In 1999, Rush ran for Mayor of Chicago, but lost in the Democratic primary to incumbent Richard M. Daley, an ethnic Irish American whose father had long controlled the city as mayor. He remained active in city and regional politics.
In 2013, Rush criticized a proposal by former Republican Senator Mark Kirk who suggested that 18,000 members of the Chicago gang "Gangster Disciples" be arrested. Rush called Kirk's approach "headline grabbing", and said it was an "upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution to a problem he knows nothing about". A spokesman for Kirk said the Congressman had dealt with the issues for decades.
Though a very close friend to former President Bill Clinton and his wife, politician Hillary Clinton, Rush announced early on in the 2008 Democratic primaries that he would support Barack Obama. After Obama won the Presidency and vacated his Senate seat, Rush proposed that an African American should be appointed to fill that seat. During a press conference, Rush said, "With the resignation of President-elect Obama, we now have no African-Americans in the United States Senate, and we believe it will be a national disgrace to not have this seat filled by one of the many capable African-American Illinois politicians." Rush said he did not support any particular person, and he was not interested in the seat. On December 30, 2008, Governor Rod Blagojevich announced his appointment of Roland Burris, the former Attorney General of Illinois; Rush was present at the press conference and spoke in support of Burris.
After redistricting in 1992, Rush decided to run in the newly redrawn Illinois' 1st congressional district, which included much of the South Side of Chicago. The district had a high proportion of African-American residents. Rush defeated incumbent U.S. Congressman Charles Hayes and six other candidates in the Democratic primary election in 1992. He won the general election with 83% of the vote. In the 2000 Democratic primary for the Illinois' 1st congressional district, Rush was challenged by young Illinois State Senator Barack Obama. During the primary, Rush said, "Barack Obama went to Harvard and became an educated fool. Barack is a person who read about the civil rights protests and thinks he knows all about it."
Rush claimed Obama was insufficiently rooted in Chicago's black neighborhoods to represent constituents' concerns. For his part, Obama said Rush was a part of "a politics that is rooted in the past" and said he could build bridges with whites to get things done. But while Obama did well in his own Hyde Park base, he did not get enough support from the surrounding black neighborhoods. Starting with 10% name recognition, Obama eventually gained 30% of the vote, losing by a more than 2-to-1 margin despite winning among white voters. Rush won 61% of the votes overall. Rush won the general election for the district with 88% of the vote. Rush has consistently won with high margins, winning above 80% in every election. The exception was his first bid for re-election in 1994 and in 2012, after redistricting. He still gained more than 70% of the vote in the district.
Rush has been considered a loyal Democrat during his tenure; in the 110th Congress, he voted with his party 97.8% of the time. Rush is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the House Baltic Caucus.
Rush initiated the Chicago Partnership for the Earned Income Tax Credit, an ongoing program designed to help low-income working Chicago resident to receive the Earned Income Tax Credit, a federal income tax credits.
Rush sponsored the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Act passed in 1999. The law temporarily addressed the nursing shortage by providing non-immigrant visas for qualified foreign nurses in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago and was reauthorized in 2005. Rush sponsored the Melanie Blocker-Stokes Postpartum Depression Research and Care Act, named for Melanie Blocker-Stokes, a Chicago native who jumped to her death from a 12th-story window due to postpartum depression. The bill would provide for research on postpartum depression and psychosis and services for individuals suffering from these disorders. The Children's Health Act, passed in 2000, incorporated Rush's Urban Asthma Reduction Act of 1999, amending the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant program and including an integrated approach to asthma management.
Rush was very outspoken against the GOP's "No More Solyndras" Bill, which would override a loan guarantee by the Energy Department to encourage research and development. The Energy Department guaranteed a federal loan contract with the Solyndras company to help with R&D. He said the "No More Solyndras Bill" would be better named as the "No More Innovation Bill".
Rush introduced the "Blair Holt's Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009" on January 6, 2009. The bill would require all owners of handguns and semiautomatic firearms to register for a federal firearms license. All sales of the subject firearms would have to go through a licensed dealer. It would also make it a criminal act not to register as an owner of a firearm.
On July 15, 2004, Rush became the second sitting member of Congress, following Charles Rangel and preceding Joe Hoeffel, to be arrested for trespassing while protesting the genocide in Darfur and other violations of human rights in Sudan in front of the Sudanese Embassy.
On February 13, 2007, Rush opposed President George W. Bush's proposed 20,000-serviceman troop surge in Iraq. He said the presence of the troops in Iraq was the greatest catalyst of violence in Iraq, and advocated a political resolution of the situation. Rush stated that the troop surge would only serve to make the Iraqi situation more volatile.
On March 28, 2012, Rush addressed the House while wearing a hoodie in honor of Trayvon Martin, a teenager who was shot in Florida by a local resident. He spoke against racial profiling. As the House forbids its members from wearing headgear, Rush was called out of order and escorted from the chamber.
On September 5, 2017, Rush became the sole co-sponsor of H.R. 1697 to withdraw his support of the bill, which would require the United States to side with Israel against a United Nations resolution sanctioning Israel for human rights abuses.
In the 115th United States Congress (January 3, 2017, to January 3, 2019):
Rush's career average missed vote percentage is 15.7, which is high compared to the median missed vote percentage of 2.2 for members of the U.S. House of Representatives. However, most of his absences were between 2014 and 2016 and he asserts that serious health problems kept him from D.C. In the first session of the 114th session of Congress (January 2015 to December 2015), Rush missed 15.6% of the votes and ranked #12 in most missed votes. Rush had the distinction of missing more votes than any other member of the House of Representatives between 2007 and 2015: out of 6,906 votes, Rush missed 1,549 or 22.4%. Health issues for Rush and his wife were his main explanations for his high number of missed votes.
The Office of Congressional Ethics referred a matter involving Rush to the House Ethics Committee in 2014. The Office of Congressional Ethics report found he did not pay about $365,000 in rent for longtime use of an office to conduct politics. Rush has paid family members for years in questionable practices. Rush had a family member who for years worked for his church but was paid by a campaign supporter and friend. The Federal Election Commission questioned Rush's campaign over a campaign-finance report that showed thousands of dollars spent on vague categories such as "campaign visibility" and "services rendered." His campaign paid his wife, Carolyn, $50,000 in 2015 for consulting, and his brother, Marlon Rush of Lansing, $13,000 in 2016 for two months' work as campaign manager, according to FEC reports. Oxford Media Group Inc., an Oak Brook company owned by multimillionaire businessman Joseph Stroud, paid the Commonwealth Edison bill -- which was well past due, totaling $17,900 for Rush's Beloved Community Christian Church in 2010. Rush had personally been named in a ComEd lawsuit over the church's previous unpaid bills. Stroud was trying to break into the wireless phone industry dominated by Verizon and AT&T, and Rush was pushing for federal tax incentives that would give one of Stroud's other companies a leg up as a minority-owned business. A nonprofit Rush started got $1 million from the charitable arm of what's now AT&T for what turned out to be a failed effort to create a "technology center" in Englewood. At the time, the telecom giant was seeking support for legislation in a House committee on which Rush was a key member.
|1992||Bobby Rush||Democratic||82%||Jay Walker||Republican||17%|
|1994||Bobby Rush (inc.)||Democratic||75%||William J. Kelly||Republican||24%|
|1996||Bobby Rush (inc.)||Democratic||85%||Noel Naughton||Republican||12%||Tim M. Griffin||Libertarian||1%|
|1998||Bobby Rush (inc.)||Democratic||87%||Marlene W. Ahimaz||Republican||10%||Maggie Kohls||Libertarian||2%|
|2000||Bobby Rush (inc.)||Democratic||87%||Raymond G. Wardingley||Republican||12%|
|2002||Bobby Rush (inc.)||Democratic||81%||Raymond G. Wardingley||Republican||16%||Dorothy Tsatsos||Libertarian||2%|
|2004||Bobby Rush (inc.)||Democratic||84%||Raymond G. Wardingley||Republican||15%|
|2006||Bobby Rush (inc.)||Democratic||84%||Jason E. Tabour||Republican||15%|
|2008||Bobby Rush (inc.)||Democratic||85%||Antoine Members||Republican||14%|
|2010||Bobby Rush (inc.)||Democratic||80%||Raymond G. Wardingley||Republican||15%||Jeff Adams||Green||3%|
|2012||Bobby Rush (inc.)||Democratic||73%||Donald Peloquin||Republican||26%|
|2014||Bobby Rush (inc.)||Democratic||73%||Jimmy Tillman||Republican||27%|
|2016||Bobby Rush (inc.)||Democratic||74%||August Deuser||Republican||26%|
Rush is pastor of the Beloved Community Christian Church in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. Leaders of other Englewood non-profit organizations complained that the church's programs--a community development corporation Rebirth of Englewood, a public health center, and a group serving teens convicted of crimes--received an inordinate amount of government aid and weighed heavily on their own efforts for renewal.
In 2013, Rush and his wife, the Beloved Community Christian Church of which Rush is pastor, and another nonprofit organization operating out of the church had tax delinquencies that added up to $195,000, and the pattern of tax delinquency was a decade old. Unpaid taxes included property taxes, income taxes, and employee withholding taxes. New City Bank sued Rush and his wife for $500,000, claiming they failed to pay their property taxes in 2009. In 1994, Rush owed the Internal Revenue Service $55,000 in federal income taxes, according to Cook County records.
Rush has been married twice, to Sandra Milan from 1967 until 1974 and later to Carolyn Thomas in 1981 until her death in 2017. Rush and his wife Carolyn have a blended family of seven children. Their son Huey was named after Black Panther leader Huey Newton. He was murdered in Chicago at the age of 29. Carolyn Rush died of congestive heart failure on March 13, 2017 at the age of 68. In 2008, Rush had a rare type of malignant tumor removed from his salivary gland. Rush is a member of Iota Phi Theta. According to a DNA analysis conducted under the auspices of the TV program, Know Your Heritage, he is descended mainly from the Ashanti people of Ghana.