Thursday, April 21, 2005

Roskam almost surely a 6th CD primary candidate within weeks; Calls Sen. Pankau misguided.

State Senator Peter Roskam [R- Wheaton, 48th Dist.] opened a 10:00 am press conference today with the following statement:

I am formally exploring a campaign to seek the Republican nomination for the 6th Cong. District. My plan in the days and weeks ahead is to formally contact party leaders and activists and voters in the 6th Cong. Dist. and elected officials with whom I serve and gauge their level of support. I filed a candidacy paper with the Federal Election Commission you know my fondness for him [Cong. Henry Hyde] just sort of has no end and he had a formative influence on me … and it was a great privilege to work for him…if I could emulate him—that would be a goal of mine.”

It was notable, if not unexpected, that Senator Roskam spoke with deep affection and admiration for Cong. Henry Hyde at the beginning of this morning’s press conference, during the middle of the event and in his concluding answer—to a question about the significance of the changing boundaries of the 6th Cong. Dist. over the last three decades—by saying, “This is a district that has sent someone like Henry Hyde to the Congress for the past thirty one years and they are comfortable with who he is and the way that he has handled himself.”

If anybody wants to run in the primary or general election by questioning whether Cong. Hyde’s replacement should be in the tradition of Cong. Hyde, Senator Roskam made it clear this morning where he stands [See, also, the partial transcript of the press conference, below].

The Senator from Wheaton, 43, making his second bid in seven years for a Congressional seat, seemed at ease when answering questions from the press. He gave fairly direct responses, as opposed to the oft-used dodges and clichés by various pols when they begin a campaign.

It does sound as if Senator Roskam anticipates a serious Republican primary contest with a strong challenger, or two or more—and he seems ready to engage them, whether it be State Senator Carole Pankau [R- Roselle], former State Rep. Tom Johnson from West Chicago, Elmhurst Mayor Thomas Marcucci, or former DuPage County Recorder J. P. “Rick” Carney [whose name was brought up specifically by the smart and well informed Chicago Sun-Times political writer Scott Fornek, who led off today's questioning of Roskam by saying that Carney was definitely in the race and that Carney had told Fornek that he was ready to put in as much of his own money as “it takes.” Carney told Fornek a few days ago that he would put as much as $500,000 of his own money into the race and that "the race is going to come down to money."]

On the other side of the aisle, Rahm Emanuel [D- Chicago, 5th Cong. Dist.], Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ["DCCC"] and therefore the man who can decide where much of the "hot Democratic money," will go, is quoted by Fornek as saying that Cong. Hyde's retirement makes the 6th Cong. Dist. "a swing district."

Senator Roskam spoke from his hotel room in Springfield [the state senate is in session today] and at least fifteen media individuals from the Chicago metropolitan area, other portions of the state and Washington, DC participated in the press conference by phone—which, by the way, seemed to come off amazingly well. This was surprising in light of the fact that each media member couldn’t gauge by body language when the Senator was finished answering a question and whether another correspondent was ready to jump in. Only once or twice did two reporters start speaking at the same time, and when that happened, one would defer readily to the other.

Those entities represented at the press conference included, among others, Public Affairs, WBBM- AM radio, the Chicago Sun-Times, Illinois Radio Network, the Journal Newspapers, the Chicago Tribune, WLS-AM radio, Crain’s Chicago Business, the Daily Herald, Congressional Quarterly [DC], Congress Daily [DC], Beacon News [Aurora], ABC- 7 News in Chicago, CLTV and Liberty Newspapers. The press conference lasted about twenty-five minutes.

Senator Roskam said he was not hesitating to get into the race, but that he was “trying to build a slow, cautious campaign approach.” He indicated he wanted to speak with various individuals, as indicated above and that he wanted to circle back to those people with whom he spoke when “it [the open seat] was theoretical… but now it is real.”

As to the eight public officials who had indicated their endorsement of Senator Roskam, contingent on Cong. Hyde not seeking another term, Roskam said he was “hopeful that they are [still with him] and I have got no indications to the contrary but I am not going to, at this point… speak for any other elected officials.” [See partial transcript, below].

As to timing on becoming an official candidate, Senator Roskam said that if “I get the kind of feedback that I have been getting so far…then in the coming weeks I would intend to formally proceed...” He said it was his hope that he would make a final decision in the “next several weeks.”

The eleven year [House and Senate] State Legislator- Attorney indicated that he “would try to reach out to the broadest possible base of people to put together an effective campaign in the primary and then ultimately in the general election.”

Answering questions about [House] Majority Leader Tom Delay [R-TX] and the House Ethics Committee, Senator Roskam said that he knows Cong. Biggert [R- Hinsdale; 13th Dist.,IL] “is on that House Ethics Committee and [I] have a lot of respect for her decision making. But knowing what I know now of what Tom Delay has been accused of, my attitude would be to support him.” [See partial transcript, below]

Senator Roskam declined to comment on the appropriateness of the recent House Ethics Committee rules changes, other than to say that he has “confidence in the current Republican Leadership in the Congress.” [See partial transcript, below]

As to term limits, like Cong. Hyde, Senator Roskam is against them [Go Here and Scroll to Sep. 20, 2004, 12:45 am "Public Affairs blog entry" for Cong. Hyde's term limit views]. Peter Roskam especially took issue with what he called “self limits,” which he pointed out, if adopted by one Party and not the other, would allow legislators in one party to gain more seniority than the legislators in the other party. [See partial transcript, below].
Jeff Berkowitz: Senator, Carol— Senator Pankau said that she thinks the district doesn’t necessarily want a [Cong.] Henry Hyde clone. Do you disagree with her?

State Senator Peter Roskam [R- Wheaton]: I think this District has sent Cong. Hyde to the United States Congress for thirty-one years and he has managed to become not only a leader and a figure who is highly respected in Illinois and across the nation but actually around the world. So, I think she [Sen. Pankau] is misguided in that characterization.

Berkowitz: Well, one thing—since he was there for thirty-one years and he still is, obviously he [Cong. Hyde] didn’t think too much about term limits [Go here and Scroll to Sep. 20, 2004, 12:45 am Public Affairs blog entry to read Cong. Hyde's views on term limits] . What do you think about term limits?

Sen. Roskam: I am against term limits, as well. I mean, if, if, the-it seems like it is a- it is sort of self defeating in a way. If we are going to have term limits, then have them across the board. You know, [Senator] Ted Kennedy ought not to be able to serve in Congress for 30 plus years or however long he has served for Massachusetts and then we have members of congress that self limit. It’s a seniority based system and to cut ourselves off-- you know, if we had term limits, Denny Hastert wouldn’t be Speaker of the House.

Berkowitz: Okay, but if you could have them [term limits] across the board, what term would you favor then? Six years?

Sen. Roskam: No, I’ve not given that a lot of thought because I think it is theoretical, it is not real, and it’s never gonna happen.
Berkowitz: Senator, as you know, the ethics committee rules have changed in the [U. S.] House and they now require, for example, for an investigation to proceed against [House] Majority Leader Tom Delay [R-TX] at least one Republican [on the Ethics Committee] to join the Democrats in pushing for an investigation, do you support that type of rule change?

State Senator Peter Roskam: You know I worked for Congressman Delay 20 years ago almost [as a legislative correspondent and a legislative assistant]when he was a freshman member of Congress and I think everybody agrees he is one of the most effective legislators in Washington, DC. I would defer to Congresswoman Biggert, my former colleague in the House. I know that she is on that House Ethics Committee and [I] have a lot of respect for her decision making. But knowing what I know now of what Tom Delay has been accused of, my attitude would be to support him.

Berkowitz: But do you support that Rules change that requires at least one member from the other party to proceed on an ethics investigation. Previously it could have been done if simply all Democrats favored it [or] all Republicans. Now you need that plus one. Do you favor that Rules change?

Sen. Roskam: I am just not familiar enough with the rules themselves and what the proposed changes mean. But, I have confidence in the—I mean if your question, and I got the sense that it is—if your question is do I have confidence in the current Republican Leadership in the Congress? My answer is yes.

Berkowitz: One other quick question, just while I have you. On March 17, and I put this on my blog, you indicated that you had eight endorsements contingent on Cong. Hyde not seeking another term. Now that he isn’t [going to], are you confident that those eight endorsements are still with you?

Sen. Roskam: I am hopeful that they are and I have got no indications to the contrary but I am not going to, at this point, speak to or speak for any of the folks, ummm, where, where I am—I am seeking their support. So, I need to circle back and, but I am not going to speak for any other elected officials.
Partial transcript of telephonic press conference held on April 21, 2005 by State Senator and potential 6th Cong. Dist. Republican Primary candidate Peter Roskam [R- Wheaton].
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at