Thursday, March 17, 2005

Roskam lines up endorsements contingent on Cong. Hyde not running.

The Chicago Tribune’s Rudolph Bush and Rick Pearson reported yesterday that Cong. Henry Hyde is saying that he has not made up his mind whether he will seek another term. Lynn Sweet, in Tuesday’s Sun-Times, reported that Cong. Hyde will make up his mind in April. However, Bush/Pearson report that unnamed “Republican aides,” have said that Hyde will announce his retirement around his 81st birthday in mid-April. Sweet also states, “she is told he [Hyde] has decided to retire and is unlikely to reverse course.”

Okay, I will raise the ante even further and state unequivocally that Cong. Hyde will announce in April that he will not seek another term.

As Lynn Sweet points out in her comprehensive piece on Cong. Hyde, the Congressman is currently extremely active as the Chairman of the House International Relations Committee. The matters he is overseeing as Chairman range from making sure that John Bolton is smoothly confirmed by the Senate as the new U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations to U. N. Reform to the Middle East [including Jordan and Libya] to dealing with European arms sales to China to dealing with the Afghanistan drug trade and the impact of that trade on that country’s emerging democracy to Aids funding for African and Caribbean countries.

In light of all that activity, it is unlikely that Hyde would choose to give up his seat and his Chairmanship of the International Relations Committee any sooner than he has to, which by Republican House Leadership rules, is January, 2007.

However, the Republican House Leadership’s six-year term limits on Committee chairmen means if Hyde stays in Congress he could no longer chair the International Relations Committee. Nor could he go back to chairing the Judiciary Committee, as he did from 1995-2000. Perhaps he could get a waiver from the party’s term limits, but probably not. Further, although mentally more alert than colleagues who are half his age, his physical mobility is limited by back and other health problems.

And, as Congressman Hyde made clear to me on my television show last September when I asked him about his health and how long he planned to stay in Congress, this is a man of grace and realism, who knows when to leave the dance:

Jeff Berkowitz: Your health is good right now?

Cong. Henry Hyde: Yeah, I am not getting any younger. But, I am still alert and anxious to proceed.

Berkowitz: You are guaranteeing your voters that you are there and good for another two years?

Hyde: Oh, very, very good.

Berkowitz: How long do you think you will stay [in Congress]?

Hyde: Oh, I don’t want to answer that question now but surely all good things come to an end.

Always the Gentleman and the Diplomat, that was Cong. Hyde’s way of saying “this far and no farther,” i.e., that he planned to stay in Congress until 2006, but not after that.

Sweet reported in Tuesday’s Sun-Times article that State Sen. Peter Roskam is “exploring another run for Congress,” this time in the 6th Cong. Dist., having lost a close primary to Cong. Biggert in 1998 in the 13th Cong. Dist. [50% go 40%]. The Bush/Pearson Tribune article quotes Roskam as saying he would “seriously consider running for [the seat],” but that Henry Hyde is his Congressman and that if Henry runs again in 2006, Roskam would of course support Hyde and not run himself.

But, of course, Roskam would not run against Hyde. Roskam is also a gentleman and he would defer to Hyde if he chose to run for another term not only because that would be good politics but also because Roskam just thinks that is the right thing to do. Anybody who has known Senator Roskam for more than five minutes could predict that decision by him.

However, Roskam does make it clear that he is doing more than “exploring.” That is, if Cong. Hyde announces in April, as I predict, that he will not seek another term, State Senator Roskam will not only be ready to announce that he is a candidate in the Republican Primary for the 6th Cong. Dist. seat, but that he has lined up some significant endorsements. The endorsements will all be contingent, of course, on Hyde not running and on Roskam becoming a candidate in the 6th CD Republican primary, which of course Peter won’t do until Hyde announces he is not seeking another term.

The endorsements for Roskam that he tells me he has already lined up, contingent as stated above, are an impressive start for Senator Roskam:

Cong. Judy Biggert [R- Hinsdale, 13th CD].
Cong. [and potential gubernatorial candidate] Ray LaHood [R- Peoria, 18th CD]
State Sen. and DuPage County Republican Chairman Kirk Dillard [R- Westmont, 24th Dist.]
State Sen. Dave Sullivan [R-Park Ridge, 33rd Dist. and whose district includes Elk Grove Village, an important component of the 6th CD]
State Rep. Randy Hultgren [R- Wheaton, 95th Dist and Roskam’s State Rep.]
State Rep. John Millner [R- St. Charles, 55th Dist.]
Greg Baise, President of the Illinois Manufacturers Association
Ed Murnane, President of the Illinois Civil Justice League [promoter of Tort Reform] for the last decade and a former Reagan Administration official

Considering the bitter primary that Senator Roskam had with Cong. Biggert in 1998 and the sharp differences between the two on social issues, some might be surprised to see Biggert as an early endorser of Roskam. However, they should not be. Soon after the primary, I am told, matters were patched up between the two and both have spoken well of the other to me.

If Hyde, as is expected, announces he is not seeking another term, the additional potential Republican candidates for his seat include Tom Marcucci, the Mayor of Elmhurst, and State Senator Carol Pankau. Marcucci has a re-election election on April 5, 2005, so he is not saying much about the 6th CD race at this time. Pankau was a state rep. in the district that includes Bloomingdale and now is a state senator in a district that includes Roselle. Pankau has not returned our calls. State Senator Dan Cronin [R- Lombard, 21st Dist.], who considered a run in the 6th CD, announced a few weeks ago that he would not make the run.

Other Republicans are expected to join the race if Cong. Hyde makes the 6th CD an open seat. However, as of now, if the seat becomes an open one, the Republican primary nomination is Roskam’s to lose.

On the Democratic side, the only candidate in the 6th CD race so far is Christine Cegelis, who ran in 2003-04 and received 44% of the vote [a little better than now Cong. Bean did in her first run against Cong. Crane in 2002]. Cegelis made the last day of her 2004 campaign the first day of her 2006 campaign, trying to model her efforts after Melissa Bean’s upset win over Cong. Crane in the 8th Cong. Dist. Although, Cegelis anticipates that her Republican opponent, if she is her party’s nominee again, will be someone other than Cong. Hyde. That makes at least two of us.

Roskam will portray himself as a Reagan-Bush-Hyde conservative and reject any attempt by Democrats or others to label him as “Hard Right,” even as Christine Cegelis, I imagine, will reject any attempt to label her as “ Hard Left.” However, if it is a Roskam-Cegelis match-up in the general election in November, 2006, the voters will have a “choice, not an echo.”
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at