JUL 28, 2023
Van Pelt announces resignation from Senate after skipping spring session
Sen. Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) missed all but one day of the spring legislative session. [Illinois Senate Democrats]
Sen. Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) announced Wednesday she will resign from the Illinois Senate on Tuesday after she didn’t participate in the spring session.
Van Pelt represents the 5th Senate District, which stretches from the West Loop to Cicero Avenue and south to north from 16th Street to Fullerton Avenue including parts of the Wicker Park and Old Town neighborhoods. She currently chairs the Senate Local Government Committee.
Van Pelt was first elected to the Senate in 2012 but hasn’t faced an opponent since the 2016 Democratic primary, when she easily defeated Bob Fioretti. Her seat is not up for reelection again until 2026.
Despite winning reelection in 2022 and being tasked to lead a committee, Van Pelt did not attend more than one day of the spring session. According to General Assembly records, Van Pelt was not present for any meetings held by her own committee and missed 903 of the Senate’s 904 votes this year. The only vote she took was the day she was sworn in for a new term in January on a routine resolution authorizing the Senate to organize. Voting records show Van Pelt was even absent the day after she was sworn in in Springfield.
In a statement announcing her resignation, Van Pelt said she faced “health challenges” but did not explain why she wasn’t in Springfield this year.
“I want to thank all who have stood by me over this past year throughout my health challenges,” she said in a statement Wednesday. “It has been a blessing to serve the people of this great state, but it’s time to pass the torch.”
Van Pelt told Politico in January she planned to resign at the end of the month. That did not come to pass, but Van Pelt never returned to Springfield.
But Van Pelt’s own social media pages show she was able to travel to other areas of the country and the world, usually for her business. She runs a relationship advice and life coaching business, where she goes by “Dr. Pat,” and hosts conferences and other events for women. Through her business, she published a book titled “How to Attract the Man of Your Dreams.”
On Jan. 24, Van Pelt posted a video on her personal Facebook page showing herself presenting at a conference in Los Angeles. She also advertised a speaking engagement in Las Vegas for Jan 27 and on May 7 in Atlanta.
Separately, Van Pelt posted a video on TikTok on March 1 showing her returning from a trip to Dubai with her husband.
Numerous emails, text messages and phone calls by The Daily Line since April were not returned by Van Pelt. A spokesperson for Van Pelt did not respond to follow up questions sent by The Daily Line following her resignation. Van Pelt told the Tribune Wednesday she had a pair of hip replacements. While some members of the General Assembly had previously participated remotely because of illnesses, that was discontinued this year.
“This past spring, Senator Van Pelt had a series of medical procedures that turned out to be more extensive than originally expected,” Senate President Don Harmon’s (D-Oak Park) spokesperson John Patterson said in an email. “The Senator recently informed the Senate President of her pending resignation. President Harmon thanks her for her service in the Illinois Senate and looks forward to working with whomever will be the next Senator for the 5th Senate District.”
In her campaign’s spending account, Van Pelt did record some expenditures since January. These included monthly payments for media, several payments to her relative Bettina Van Pelt for an unspecified reason, and a “contribution” to a person who lives at an address in East Chicago, Indiana.
Van Pelt did not respond to additional questions from The Daily Line about her campaign expenses.
Van Pelt also runs a CBD business called WaKanna for Life that was forced to pay $144,000 in a settlement following a Secretary of State investigation into the business, NBC-5 reported.
According to her statement, Van Pelt plans to resign on Aug. 1, which allows her to receive an extra half-month’s pay because of the General Assembly’s bi-monthly pay schedule. Van Pelt receives an extra $11,098 for working as a committee chair in addition to a lawmaker’s annual $85,000 salary.
Ward committeemen in the 5th Senate District will have 30 days to select a new Democratic senator to replace Van Pelt. Chicago Ald. Walter Burnett (27) will have the greatest amount of the weighted vote in the replacement process with about 23 percent.
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