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A Beachwood Guide To The Primaries: Congress & You

This state's congressional delegation is a powerhouse. You might not know this, but the frickin' Speaker of the House, you know, the guy who used to be Newt Gingrich, and before that Tip O'Neill, is from Illinois. His name is Dennis Hastert. He is from Yorkville. He is two heartbeats from the presidency - meaning if Dick Cheney shot George W. Bush while hunting and then had a heart attack, Dennis Hastert would be president.

So yeah, he's kind of undercovered in the local press. At least others have taken notice.

Illinois holds several other seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. On the Republican side, Mark Kirk, who represents the North Shore up through Waukegan, is one of the brightest. Henry Hyde, the old lion from DuPage County who is still far more upset about Bill Clinton's fudging about blowjobs from an intern ("Catch the falling flag!" he implored in his impeachment speech) than George Bush's phony war and illegal spying, is retiring. Jerry Weller, based in the southwest suburbs, is kind of out to lunch.

On the Democratic side, Rahm Emanuel has done a terrific job maintaining the cynicism enshrined in the North Side seat previously held by Danny Rostenkowski. He's a comer. Jesse Jackson Jr. is kind of the Democratic analog to Kirk: The smart one. Jan Schakowksy is the party player, rising through the leadership ranks as fast as she can raise money. Danny Davis seems like a halfway decent guy. Bobby Rush and Luis Gutierrez are niche representatives. Dan Lipinski is a royal ass.

Over in the U.S. Senate, President-in-Waiting Barack Obama is smart enough to know he hasn't accomplished anything yet except defeat accused wife-aggrievers Blair Hull and Jack Ryan, and the thoroughly beat-down illegal alien Alan Keyes. It's funny how the Illinois media missed spotting our next president all those years he was down there in Springfield toiling away on the Earned Income Tax Credit. Our other senator, Dick Durbin, is the Assistant Democratic Leader and frequently the national party's go-to guy for the Sunday morning news shows. But the pundits like their new novelty toy, Barack, better.

Neither Obama nor Durbin are up for re-election this year. So we'll keep our attention on Illinois' House races. The U.S. House is designed to protect incumbents from challengers, because real democracy causes instability, so most of these races aren't competitive. But we think you should know about them anyway. By district -

1. Incumbent Bobby Rush is a minister now, which means he's stealing money from his congregation as well as his constituents. His challenger is Philip Jackson, who flamed out badly as head of the CHA and seems more suited to working with kids in the education sector from where he came and where he has returned. Though that kind of commends him for congressional work. Jason Tabour is unopposed on the GOP side.

2. Two Republicans from little Lansing - a high school math teacher and a town library trustee - are battling for the chance to be the Republican slaughtered by Jesse Jackson Jr. in the fall.

3. In the Third District, the Beachwood Political Desk would like to see Dan Lipinski turned out even if it takes Ray Wardingley to do it. There is more democracy in Baghdad's Third District right now than in Illinois'.

Daddy gave Danny his job and Danny doesn't appear to feel the slightest bit sheepish, much less embarrassed and ashamed, about it. That makes him twice as unfit to hold the seat.

Lynn Sweet reported this last week:

"The poll also shows that if enough people know about how William Lipinski sneaked his son into office, it will change their opinion of if he deserves another term . . . Dan Lipinski spokesman Chris Ganschow told me Wednesday he does not think the senior Lipinski's political trickery will come home to deny his son a second term."

So yeah, the Lipinski campaign is counting on the ignorance of voters in the district - and they seem to be complying.

Meanwhile, the Tribune, for all its constant haranguing of voters to throw the bums out, endorses Lipinski, apparently because the paper's editorial board considers challenger John Sullivan, a Cook County prosecutor, to be too liberal for the district, as if voters couldn't decide that for themselves. (John Kelly, a financial advisor, is also in the race, though he is suspected of being a Lipinski plant designed to steal votes from Sullivan.)

To be fair to Lipinski, we went to his website to check out his most recent accomplishments. Here they are - from him not us.

* House Passes Lipinski's Bill Honoring Contributions of American Engineers, Cites Need to Improve Education to Continue American Technological Leadership in World - WASHINGTON, DC - This week the U.S. House of Representatives passed Congressman Dan Lipinski's resolution, H.Res. 681, Supporting the Goals and Ideals of National Engineers Week. Since 1951, National Engineers Week has been celebrated across the country to raise public awareness of the important contributions engineers make to our nation and to inspire more young Americans to become interested in engineering.

* Congressman Lipinski Questions Funding Cuts to Small Business Programs - WASHINGTON, DC - Congressman Dan Lipinski, ranking member on the House Small Business Subcommittee on Workforce, Empowerment, and Government Programs, responded today to the administration's seriously underfunded budget proposal for small business entrepreneurial development programs.

* Congressman Lipinski Hosts Senior's Fair in Berwyn Held in Conjunction With Michael O'Connor, Mayor of Berwyn - CHICAGO, IL - Congressman Lipinski is hosting a Senior's Fair at the Berwyn YMCA located at 2947 South Oak Park Avenue on Thursday February 23, 2006 in conjunction with Mayor Michael O'Connor. The Senior's Fair will start at 10:00 a.m. and run until 1:00 p.m.

On the Republican side, Wardingley is taking on neo-Nazi Arthur Jones.

So let's turn Lipinski out, even if means getting behind the clown. Uh, we mean Wardingley, just to be clear.

4. Incumbent Luis Gutierrez is running unopposed. So we're against him. GOP challenger Ann Melichar is running unopposed. So we're against her, too.

5. Rahm Emanuel has two challengers: Mark Frederickson, a community advocate, and bar worker Johnny "Hap" Haptonstall. We prefer either of the challengers to Emanuel, the master politician. Vote for the bar guy. 'Cause he works at a bar. Kevin White will be the GOP nominee.

6. How cynical is the campaign of Iraqi war veteran and double-amputee Tammy Duckworth? Well, with Rahm Emanuel (and Dick Durbin) behind it, very. Watching the Democrats pimp an Iraqi war vet is pathetic. "Like the Republicans wouldn't stoop so low," a Duckworth operative told me. How edifying.

This is the race to replace Henry Hyde. Christine Cegelis won 44 percent of the vote against Hyde last time out, yet the national party has thrown her overboard. Thanks for your hard work, Christine!

(The operative told me that Cegelis "couldn't put it together." Yeah, I guess 44 percent against Hyde doesn't really qualify as "putting it together." As opposed to Duckworth, who so obviously put her campaign together all by herself.)

Perhaps Cegelis is this year's Nancy Kaszak, the true community candidate who you would have thought, like Cegelis, had earned her party's support to a North Side seat in 2002 only to be swamped by Emanuel's decision to move into the district and buy a seat for $2 million. But it's not like money has hijacked your democracy.

Because guess what? Duckworth doesn't live in the district. The district she is running to represent. She has never lived in the district. Because who needs that?

The notion that Duckworth "has a good story to tell" because she lost her legs in Iraq is sickening. She's not running for novelist.

Besides, she hasn't offered a single insight into the war. So what story exactly is she telling? That anyone can be a carpetbagger?

Lindy Scott, a teacher at Wheaton College, is also in the race. Late last month, the Sun-Times reported on the percent of campaign contributions coming from inside the district for each candidate.

Dems -
Tammy Duckworth: 3 percent.
Christine Cegelis: 28 percent
Lindy Scott: 32 percent

Roskam: 33.3 percent.

Sweet reported: "Duckworth's campaign would rather the national aspect of her candidacy and fund-raising not get special attention. In the questionnaire Duckworth filled out for the Sun-Times editorial board, she did not respond to a series of questions about fund-raising. [Spokesman Billy] Weinberg said the omission was accidental and sent the requested information."

It was just an accident that that part of the form went blank.

Then Weinberg spun: "You are looking inside the numbers. I prefer to look at the bottom line."

Again, from Sweet (this is a lot from her, but she really lays it out): "The [Dem] leaders' support has helped Duckworth raise more money than Cegelis or Scott - about $719,000 so far, compared with more than $300,000 for Cegelis and $104,840 for Scott. Duckworth has endorsements from Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), and from the AFL-CIO and the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

"She alone is running television commercials, one featuring Obama. Her campaign bombards voters with mailings and automated 'robo-calls.' Next week, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will hold a Duckworth fund-raiser.

"Cegelis and Scott counter with home-grown support. Their lawn signs dot the district, while Duckworth signs are nowhere to be seen, two Democratic township chairmen said. Meanwhile, the anointing of Duckworth has bred resentment among some of the party faithful.

"'There's been some opposition about the way it's been done, in that the national party has come in and endorsed a candidate who a lot of us didn't know,' said Don Dudycha, vice chairman of the Milton Township Democrats.

"Laura Fletcher, chairwoman of the Democratic Party in Wayne Township, said Duckworth is 'articulate' and 'personable.' But she added, 'Tammy probably doesn't get out to the common person as much as Lindy and Christine do.'

"Duckworth has also been criticized - especially by her opponents - for not living in the district. The Iraq vet lives in Hoffman Estates, about three miles outside the district, in a home remodeled to accommodate her disabilities.

"In Duckworth, Durbin and Emanuel saw the potential to overcome [Republican nominee Peter] Roskam's advantages with a powerful personal story. Duckworth was a major in the National Guard when she was deployed to Iraq. On the afternoon of Nov. 14, 2004, a rocket-propelled grenade hit her Black Hawk helicopter. Duckworth lost both legs. Released from Walter Reed Army Medical Center just three months ago, she now walks on legs of titanium.

"Before going to Iraq, Duckworth worked for Rotary International in Evanston and was pursuing a doctorate in political science. Now 37, she is married and has no children . . .

"Cegelis, 53, lives in Rolling Meadows. A divorced mother of two, she got into politics because 'I was just angry about things that were happening,' she said.

"Cegelis cites education and jobs as the most important issues. She wants the No Child Left Behind Act amended to be less 'punitive' and would fight 'offshoring' of U.S. jobs by cracking down on U.S. visas for high-tech workers, she said.

"Cegelis supporters emphasize her 'ground game' and 'grass-roots' support. She won the endorsement of Democracy for America, founded by Howard Dean supporters and chaired by Dean's brother. The group is employing Dean's internet fund-raising strategy on her behalf.

"The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union endorsed Cegelis. And a devoted cadre of volunteers has been canvassing for her. She needs 14,000 out of about 30,000 Democratic votes to win the race, she said."

Now you tell me which candidate sounds more appealing.

Again, I defer to the Duckworth operative who called me the cynical one for questioning the rationale and methods of her campaign: "It's a beautiful democracy," she said.

Yes, I suppose it is, for those who buy their way into it, and for the pets they tame along the way.

7. Danny Davis. We suppose he's harmless. He's facing Jim Ascot of Chicago and Robert Dallas of Oak Park. Charles Hutchinson will be the GOP nominee.

8. Republicans David McSweeney and Kathy Salvi are battling it out for the right to face Democrat Melissa Bean in the fall. McSweeney's radio ads are annoying.

9. A Republican businessman from Park Ridge and a substitute teacher from Evanston are battling it out to see who will be slaughtered by Jan Schakowsky in the fall.

10. Mark Kirk is a sharp guy.

11. Democrat John Pavich is running unopposed for the right to face incumbent Jerry Weller. Sigh.

12. The Tribune doesn't endorse in this race, featuring incumbent Jerry Costello against Granite City contractor Kenny Wiezer for the fourth time. We don't know anything about Wiezer, but let's give the Granite City guy a chance this time.

13. Judy Biggert is the incumbent. Naperville architect Bob Hart is her challenger. Downers Grove manufacturer's rep Bill Reedy is running against Wood Ridge lawyer Joseph Shannon on the Democratic side. We simply don't care.

14. All Hastert all the time.

15. These higher numbered districts tend to be boring. In the 15th, incumbent Republican Tim Johnson will face Democrat David Gill in the fall.

16. Incumbent Republican Don Manzullo runs unopposed.

17. Lane Evans is the Democrat incumbent. The Republicans will choose from commerical real estate developer Jim Mowen; former Quad Cities TV anchor Andrea Zinga; and businessman Brian Gilliland. How can you not support Zinga? I mean because of her name, not her last job.

18. Democrat Steve Waterworth will take on incumbent Republican Ray LaHood in the fall. LaHood is what you would call an Insider. Always seemed to take great offense at former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald's frequent outbursts of truth.

19. John Shimkus is the Republican incumbent. On the Democratic side, retired coal miner Vic Roberts battles it out with Kaskasia College poly sci prof Danny Stover. Congress needs a coal miner. Go Roberts!


See also:

* The Beachwood Primary Guide: Governor and Cook County President.

* The Beachwood Primary Guide: Judging Not.


Comments welcome.


Posted on March 17, 2006

MUSIC - Britney's IUD.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - Locked Out And Loaded.

BOOKS - Foxconned.


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