Monday, June 28, 2004

Dated June 28, 2004 at 1:00 am

Speaker Dennis Hastert speaks out on Jack Ryan, Rauschenberger, Gidwitz and Thompson.

[The Speaker suggests, below, lawyers are needed to help with the vetting of Senate candidates; say, I forgot to tell the Speaker that I could find some lawyers/vetters for the State GOP or the GOP Centrral Committee, or I could even do the vetting. I mean, that is my day job—legal recruiting; Combine that with my television interviewing skills and I should be quite the vetter. I might have a conflict, you say? Okay, I will consult with Medill, and see if they will approve it].

Jeff Berkowitz: We are standing here on Sunday, June 27, 2004
and we are speaking with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert. Congressman, thank you very much for joining us.

Speaker Hastert: My pleasure, great to be here.

Berkowitz: As you know, everybody has been abuzz about Jack Ryan’s decision [on Friday] to withdraw and not continue the [U. S. Senate] race. How do you think that will play out? Do you have any suggestions as to whom the candidate ought to be for the U. S. Senate, representing the Republican Party.

Hastert: Yes, I advised Jack Ryan right after the Primary that he needs to get this whole thing out in the open and behind him and then he needed to do that and define candidate Obama. Unfortunately, when he got it out, it was just unacceptable to most Republican voters in Illinois. And, I think he did the right thing by stepping down. But, now, we have to find that new candidate. I suggested that the State Party set up a panel of three or four attorneys; anybody who wants to run should be able to meet their questions and pass that—we don’t want to go through this whole type of situation again. And, then those people would go on and interview with the State, uh—

Berkowitz: Central Committee

Hastert: Central Committee and then that decision should be forthcoming. I hope that [it] is forthcoming in a couple of weeks. The quicker we can get this thing done, the better off we are. That will—beyond the press, we will be able to see who these candidates are. I don’t have any favored person in the race. I know, it—uh, might have to have somebody who can self fund- that can go and spend the money and do this. But, we also have to have somebody who has to be electable by the Republican Party. There are people that ran that race. I think [State Senator] Steve Rauschenberger from Elgin certainly is a good candidate. [3rd place finish in the Primary; 21% to Oberweis’ 25% and Ryan’s 34%] He has been through the political process [12 years as a state senator] . He knows what that is all about. [But] if he is going to run, he also has to show how he can raise that money and how we can support him because you know this is—you know, these races get to be expensive.

Berkowitz: He is looking for, I understand, a five million dollar commitment from the national party to him. Is that something that you think can be done?

Hastert: That is really the U. S. Senate Congressional group; that is not part of my issue.

Berkowitz: …Rauschenberger is somebody you think might be electable but there is the issue of raising the money [to fund the race]—

Hastert: I think he is not only electable; I think he can also do the job when he gets there. But, also, being able to run this campaign is something else you have to look at, as well.

Berkowitz: Now, Ron Gidwitz’s name is being thrown out as someone who probably could self-finance, but [he] has not really run [for elective office] other than for Committeeman in the City [of Chicago]. Would you say—what do you think about Ron Gidwitz?

Hastert: Ron has a long service in the public sector and has done a lot of things and I think he understands what the needs are from the U. S. Senate and I think he would probably be very effective in doing it, so we will have to look at that candidacy, as well. I would do that favorably.

Berkowitz: And, one other name that has come up is Jim Thompson, former Governor Jim Thompson, who has indicated that he is busy with the 9/11 Commission but I don’t know that he has said unequivocally that he would not run. What would you think of that candidacy?

Hastert: Well, you know, I served under Jim Thompson. He did a great job for the state of Illinois; is a very dynamic person; has good name ID; would be able to raise the money and if he would do it, I think he would be one of them that we would have to look at, as well.

Speaker Dennis Hastert, interviewed for a forthcoming segment of “Public Affairs,” recorded on June 27, 2004, after the Speaker spoke at a Congressman Phil Crane fundraiser at the Barn of Barrington restaurant in Barrington, IL.
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of "Public Affairs," can be reached at