Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo announced Sunday he won't seek re-election to the Illinois House and instead will run for McHenry County Board president.
Franks sought to portray the long-rumored move as a result of frustration over the lack of a state budget. But as a Democrat holding a seat in Republican territory, Franks was potentially a target of Republican Gov. Rauner and his allies this fall.
Rauner is trying to pick off as many House Democrats as he can this year and in 2018 to dethrone Speaker Michael Madigan, his chief nemesis at the state Capitol. It's an uphill struggle for Rauner this fall, as he faces a political landscape that includes a Madigan-drawn legislative map, a presidential year when Democrats turn out in greater numbers and the prospect of Donald Trump at the top of the GOP ticket.
For Franks, running for County Board president allows him to sidestep a possible Rauner-funded challenge. While Franks got 58 percent in 2014, Rauner easily carried the district. It's Republican territory, but Franks was able to use family name recognition to hold onto the seat since first winning it in 1998.
Democrats now have to find someone to run for Franks' House seat against Republican attorney Steven Reick of Harvard, who lost to Franks in 2014 but is backed by the House GOP fund. Franks draws Republican Mike Walkup, a County Board member from Crystal Lake. It's the first time McHenry County voters are directly electing the chairman, who used to be chosen from among the County Board members. Franks can try to use his name ID and the $570,000 or so available in his campaign fund to win a local board chairman race.