"I just wish I had a little more time"
The Chicago Tribune's Christi Parsons pens a nice two-page feature on Lane Evans as he prepares to step down at a time which would have offered great opportunity due to the newly Democratic House, the masses of returning vets, and the fight for stem-cell research.
If desire and experience were the only requirements, Rep. Lane Evans would be preparing to join fellow Democrats in their January takeover of Congress, where he would likely serve as a committee chairman and a seasoned advocate for military personnel.
But a decade of fighting Parkinson's disease has taken its toll on the 55-year-old congressman from Rock Island, and he is instead spending the holidays shutting down his offices and attending going-away parties. His health means he can't continue his 24-year congressional career, in which the former Marine has been an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq and a spokesman for fellow veterans.
"I think it's too bad that I couldn't do more," Evans said in an interview. "If I only had a little more time, I could do more than I've been able to. I just wish I had a little more time."
Evans surely would have been a key spokesman in favor of stem cell research, as funding and other support are increasingly the focus of public debate. The issue played an important role in the recent midterm elections, in which actor Michael J. Fox used the spotlight on his struggle with Parkinson's to advocate for increased research.
It's a sadly ironic turn for the Vietnam-era veteran and legal aid lawyer first elected to Congress in 1982. At a time when friends say he would have been a unique voice among ascendant congressional Democrats, his disease has made it difficult for him to speak at all.
His voice is steady but soft, strongest in the mornings and weaker as the day wears on. He was absent when Congress was in session for most of the last year.
"It breaks my heart that his public career ended because of this illness," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a close friend of Evans' who was elected to the House with him two dozen years ago. "This is one of the cruelest diseases, particularly for a young man with Lane's values and potential. At this moment in time, he should be writing new chapters on the issues he cares about."
Read the rest here.