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Costello will not run again

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)
Jerry Costello (L) speaks with Downtown St. Louis Airport officials Robert McDaniel (center) and Mike Miller (R) after announcing he will not run for re-election on October 4, 2011.

Updated with comments from Costello's press conference and reaction from political figures.

A long-time political figure in the Metro East has announced he will not run for re-election.

"I'm in perfect health," Democrat Jerry Costello told reporters and constituents standing in the shade at St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia on Tuesday. "It's not about the election, it's not about what's going on in Congress today. It's about a personal decision to pursue other things in my life. I never intended to stay in Congress forever."  He says he will serve the remaining 14 months of his current term.

Costello's been in Congress since 1988. He says he started pondering leaving Congress after winning the 2010 election with 60 percent of the vote. He told his family that he'd made up his mind over the weekend, and did not talk to his party's leadership in Congress before making the decision.

"I did send an email to the leadership to let them know, and the first phone call I got was would you please reconsider, and the answer was no," Costello said. "It's a decision that I'm going to stick with. I'm not going to be persuaded to run for re-election." He identified the caller only as a member of House leadership.

Costello says he's most proud of securing a future for Scott Air Force Base and seeing construction start on the Mississippi River Bridge. The biggest project left uncompleted? "A balanced budget."

Costello says he will remain in the Metro East, and plans to teach and do charity work. He says he'll endorse the right Democratic candidate but does not have a specific person in mind.

"I'll be looking for a Democratic candidate in this district to support that has an open mind, that will sit down and negotiate, and is willing to listen," he said. He added that his son Jerry Jr., who was recently appointed to an Illinois state House seat, is not interested in Congress.

Here are reactions from several officials to Costello's news:

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel:

“For more than two decades, Congressman Jerry Costello has been a champion for Southwestern and Southern Illinois families and a delegation leader. He has fought to create local jobs, improve research and development of clean coal technologies, and strengthen our transportation infrastructure. Congressman Costello is also a leading advocate on aviation issues and with his leadership the House passed the strongest aviation safety bill in over 50 years. On behalf of the DCCC, I thank Jerry Costello for his distinguished service in the House.  This is a strong Democratic district that both President Obama and Senator Kerry won and we look forward to electing a Democrat next November who will represent middle class families and fight to create local jobs and grow the economy.”

Congressman William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.):

"Congressman Jerry Costello is a great friend and a tremendous legislator.  Our entire region has benefitted from his strong and effective leadership for decades. He has always been a wonderful colleague and someone who I worked closely with on regional projects.  Jerry is a wonderful public servant, and an even better friend...I will truly miss him."

Congressman John Shimkus (R-Ill.):

“This morning I received a call from Congressman Jerry Costello informing me that he has decided to retire from public office as a Member of Congress.  This is a great loss for Southern Illinois and a personal loss for me.  “While we hail from different political parties, I have counted Jerry as one of my closest friends and confidants.  I have been amazed at the productivity of Jerry in meeting the needs of the working men and women that he represents.  In the House majority or in the minority, Jerry always seemed to get the job done.  Regardless of who held the White House, Jerry was always able to get the work done.  “Many have heard me call him the patron saint of Scott Air Force Base.  Well even patron saints retire, which will cause all of us to work a little harder to fill this gap.  To Georgia and the entire Costello clan, thanks for sharing Jerry with me, Southern Illinois, and the country.”

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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