Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Topinka and Oberweis: Union or Intersection ?

Jim Oberweis, who came in second to State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka for the Republican nomination for Governor [38% to 32%] , declined to endorse Judy this morning at the GOP Unity Breakfast at the W hotel on North Lake Shore Drive. Oberweis said that a request by Topinka for Bob Kjellander to step down from his position as Illinois’ representative on the Republican National Committee would be a sufficient, but not a necessary, condition for him to endorse Topinka. Oberweis did not make clear which alternative actions or statements by Topinka might suffice for him to endorse her, other than that they would relate to his general interest in moving the Party toward “reform.” Oberweis did state that he would not support a third party candidate for Governor, if one were to step forward.

Somewhat conspicuous by his absence at the GOP Unity event was Topinka booster, mentor and popular two term former Governor, Jim Edgar. Also not present was the much discussed and much maligned Bob Kjellander. Perhaps neither wanted to overshadow Judy in her day of triumph.

Two Illinois conservatives who have been feuding since anyone can remember, Family Pac’s Paul Caprio and mega millionaire and the driving force behind the Family Taxpayers Network, Jack Roeser, were also not at the Unity Event. Roeser and his FTN were the primary contributors to Oberweis’ campaign. Caprio backed Brady, although not nearly to the same level of financial support as Roeser gave to Oberweis, who himself is worth 10 to 50 million dollars.

The other three candidates for Governor, State Senator Bill Brady, Ron Gidwitz and Andy Martin were also introduced, with Brady and Gidwitz following Oberweis in making some brief comments.

Oberweis, although not endorsing Topinka, had the best line of the morning, as he started somberly:

I am deeply disappointed, not with last night, but with this morning. This is a Unity Breakfast--- Where’s the milk, Andy?

There’s coffee. There’s orange juice. Where’s the milk? [The joke brought the house down. A little more humor like that during the campaign and Jim might have won].

Oberweis went on to say: I hope the state can withstand four years [of Governor Blagojevich]. I know the state cannot withstand eight years and we have to make sure that that does not happen. Get out there and work.

That was as close as Oberweis came to an endorsement of Topinka.

The entire Republican State-wide ticket was there and introduced at the event, by event moderator and State GOP Chairman, Andy McKenna, Jr. Topinka’s running mate, Lt. Gov. Nominee and DuPage State’s Attorney Joe Birkett (51%), spoke to the crowd and introduced two of his opponents, Bruckner (6%) and State Senator Steve Rauschenberger (30%)—who Joe was quite gracious about in his remarks. Sandy Wegman, who surprisingly polled 13 %, was somewhat conspicuous by her absence.

8th Cong. Dist. Republican Primary nominee David McSweeney spoke briefly and was gracious to Kathy Salvi , who was in the room and who had come in second to McSweeney [43% to 33%] in what had became a bitter, nasty primary in the last few weeks. State Rep. Bob Churchill, who finished third in the 8th CD with 16 % was not at the Unity event.

McSweeney will take on first term Democrat Congresswoman Melissa Bean in a district that went 56% to 44% for President Bush in 2004, but booted out 35 year 8th CD Republican incumbent Phil Crane, who many thought had stayed way too long at the Party. McSweeney ran against Crane in the ’98 Republican Primary, as did Peter Fitzgerald four years before that.

Cong. Bean seems to view herself as a moderate, independent Democrat and she is described by many as straddling issues to fit her district in a way not unlike Republican five year incumbent Cong. Mark Kirk in the North Shore’s 10th CD, a district that went for Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry 53-47 in 2004.

Of course, McSweeney disagrees about the Cong. Bean part, arguing she does not fit the 8th Cong. District, having voted, he said, 83% of the time with her Democrat Party, and having said the two congressmen she admires most are Democrats Rahm Emanuel and Barney Frank, who McSweeney said definitely do not represent the values of the 8th CD.

State Senator Peter Roskam, who had an uncontested Republican primary in the 6th CD, spoke briefly and mentioned he had knocked on 3700 doors in the District. Roskam faces retired Major Tammy Duckworth, who won a tough Democratic Primary [43% to 40 %] over Christine Cegelis. Cegelis had held Cong. Hyde to a twelve point margin of victory in 2002. Hyde, who had been in office for 32 years, created the open seat by announcing earlier last year that he was stepping down.

Duckworth, a double amputee Iraq War Veteran, who lives in a portion of Hoffman Estates that is slightly outside the 6th CD, was recruited by Senator Durbin and DCCC Chairman Emanuel to make the run. She received massive financial and other assistance from those two powerful national political figures, as well Senator Obama and many other national pols.

It will be interesting to see if the Democrats in the 6th CD can heal their internal wounds, with many Cegelis supporters feeling they were over-run by “outsiders.” Supporters of third place finisher, Evangelical Professor Lindy Scott [15%], share many of those feelings of resentment at Duckworth and the National Democratic Party who sponsored her efforts.

On the other hand, Duckworth is a national celebrity with tons of cash from outside the District to finance her campaign. Roskam, who himself has over a million dollars of cash in hand, probably would have preferred Cegelis as an opponent, but Peter is no slouch when it comes to campaigning and he will not want for national support, with Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman stopping by Addison and Bolingbrook this Friday afternoon and evening to help fill the Roskam war chest [I’m guessing Kjellander will put in an appearance at those events].

Ladies and Gentleman, let the games begin. The 6th CD and 8th CD will be interesting, tough, spirited campaigns, with both getting lots of national attention. Ain’t politics fun.

The Illinois Governor’s race? We’ll see.