Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Bill Scheurer Stays on the ballot in 8th CD race?

A funny thing happened on the way to the Illinois Democratic Party, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ["DCCC"] and the Committee to re-elect 8th CD Congresswoman Melissa Bean’s [D-Barrington] presumed efforts to keep Moderate Party candidate Bill Scheurer off the ballot. No challenges to Bill Scheurer’s 8th CD nominating petitions were posted on the Illinois Board of Elections site Monday night, after the 5:00 filing deadline came and passed. [See here].

Moderate Party candidate Bill Scheurer was pleased to learn that, but he did not know if this meant that his nominating petitions were not being challenged or that the Board of Elections simply hadn’t had time to post a perhaps late in the day filed challenge to his nominating petitions, before the office closed for the July 4th Holiday. We may not know the answer, for sure, until Wednesday morning.

The Illinois Democratic Party, Speaker Mike Madigan, the DCCC, the Bean Campaign and their various operatives and handlers could not be reached for comment on what for many is a four day celebration of our country’s birth. There are no atheists in a foxhole and there is no dearth of patriots on July 4th[Even those who would desecrate a flag no doubt can't resist setting off some fireworks on July 4th].

It is well known that Scheurer [I-Lindenhurst] is short a thousand or so of the requisite 13,950 signatures to get on the 8th CD ballot as a third party, and, of course, that is before anyone looks to see if many of the signatures he provided are defective in one way or the other.

Everybody expects the 8th CD to be one of the most competitive races in the country this fall and surely within the top 20. First term Congresswoman Melissa Bean [D-Barrington] has the advantages of incumbency, which has helped her build up at least a two million dollar cash balance and we may learn this week that her bank balance well exceeds that figure. Bean’s vote for CAFTA, some other important pro-business votes and a record of supporting the U. S. Chamber of Commerce position at least 70% of the time almost surely will result in the national Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement, another near term boost to her campaign.

Further, almost everyone agrees that Bean is personable and works the District quite hard. And that follows more than three years of campaigning spread over two election cycles even before she took the seat by beating 35-year incumbent Phil Crane [R- Wauconda] 52% to 48% in 2004. Bean’s supporters say she chooses her words judiciously and represents well and votes her Republican district. Bean’s critics from the right say she equivocates and avoids a clear position on the issues. Bean’s critics on the left say she has abandoned Democratic and especially progressive principles.

The 8th Cong. District is still quite Republican, having gone 56% to 44% for President Bush over Democrat Kerry at the same time it was giving conservative Republican Crane the boot, for what many, including Republicans [See Cong. Ray LaHood (R-Peoria)], called a failure to pay attention to his District.

And, along comes David McSweeney, who matches Cong. Bean in his zest for working the District. His critics and supporters would agree that McSweeney has been working the district hard since [and perhaps before] he ran against Crane in the ’98 Primary [losing 2 to 1] and then up to and including his Primary win in March of this year in a tough six candidate primary. In that primary, McSweeney beat his closest rival, Kathy Salvi [who was very personable and had the benefit of her husband Al Salvi’s strong name recognition] by a ten-point margin.

Kathy Salvi was a gracious second place finisher, writing a check to the McSweeney campaign at a Republican unity event the morning after the Primary election and McSweeney has reciprocated, asking Kathy to represent him and greet the Vice-President at the airport ten days ago, as Cheney was on his way into the Chicago Loop to raise money for McSweeney at a lunch fundraiser. Each of the other five primary candidates, save Rep. Churchill [who appears still to be sulking about being criticized by McSweeeney, during the Primary, as being less than fierce about keeping taxes low in Churchill's role as a State Rep.] has by and large now rallied in support of McSweeney.

McSweeney spent about two million dollars of his own wealth and raised 500 K from donors in the primary. However, the former investment banker only had about 150K in his campaign piggy bank at the end of the primary, but he had a reasonably good second quarter for fundraising, and is expected to report approximately 600 K raised in that quarter, giving him cash on hand of about 750K. Assuming he can raise about 1.250 million dollars in the next four months, that means he might still have to dip into personal net worth to the tune of probably another two million dollars to match what Cong. Bean will have available. Can and will David McSweeney do that? Most likely.

Senator John McCain will kick off the new fundraising quarter on July 15 for McSweeney, when former POW and Presidential possibility McCain is featured at the Barrington Hills home of former Senator Peter Fitzgerald’s brother, Tom Fitzgerald. Both Fitzgeralds are on McSweeney’s Finance Committee. McSweeney will attend Judy Baar Topinka’s lunch program funder at the Drake Hotel this Friday as a guest, and that program, by the way, features President Bush. And, the day before, Majority Leader Boehner will be coming to the District to lead a rally [not to be confused with a funder] for McSweeney.

Challenger McSweeney has a clear message and articulates it well and often: less spending, less taxes and a strong national defense. Incumbent Bean’s message is not far from McSweeney’s but he argues she is equivocating-- voting for some of these things just before she votes against, or vice-versa—accusing Bean of being like Kerry, who said he voted for the funding of the Iraq War just before he voted against it.

Team Bean says McSweeney is mistaken and doesn’t understand the legislative process, including procedural votes—perhaps parroting Kerry by saying the legislative process is more “nuanced,” than Team McSweeney realizes.

Into this close race, which many now say is a 50-50 pick-em, steps Bill Scheurer, who Bean beat in the 2004 Democratic Primary, more than three to one. [See here]. As Scheurer is Anti-War and largely Anti-Trade [note the contrast with Democrat Bean’s support of CAFTA and the War], that would seem to hurt Bean much more than McSweeney.

If 2004 Democratic Primary candidate Scheurer stays on the ballot and picks up even a point or two from those disaffected Dems who would otherwise support Democrat Bean, that could prove decisive in tipping the race to McSweeney in what might otherwise be a toss up race. If the trade unions kick in some serious money to the Scheurer campaign, that could drive him up to four or five points, which could give it to McSweeney even if Cong. Bean would otherwise be the clear victor, based on her incumbency, support from DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel and friends, financial wherewithal, support from traditional Democrats and inroads with certain members of the business community who usually go Republican.

Why might the Democratic establishment decide not to file challenges to Scheurer? Well, perhaps a former 3rd Cong. District Congressman and 23rd Ward Committeeman, named Bill Lipinski, with significant clout in the Illinois Democratic Party [with his friend Speaker Mike who also happens to be the 13th Ward Committeeman] did not want to see discovery proceed in Scheurer’s lawsuit. Bill has a few other sleeping dogs he may not want to wake up at this moment:

At the time he filed his lawsuit last week:

Scheurer acknowledged that he may be short of the requisite 13,950 “good signatures,” needed to get on the ballot. Scheurer claims that his campaign had 10,000 to 12,000 signatures fewer than it would have had, if it had not been the victim of criminal fraud. Scheurer was still suspicious of the involvement and connection of one Anthony Constantine, who works in Cong. Dan Lipinski’s office, to the activities that led Scheurer to believe someone using the name of Anthony Constantine would be providing approximately 10,000, or more, signatures to support Scheurer’s candidacy. [See here].

In the federal lawsuit filed last Thursday by the Moderate Party and Scheurer's campaign against certain Democratic Party entities, leaders and operatives, Scheurer asks the court for a 60-day extension to gather additional names. Scheurer claims Attorney Andrew B. Spiegel who represents the plaintiffs has obtained similar relief for other campaigns in the past.

Alleging criminal fraud and conspiracy and election law violations, the suit also seeks compensatory and punitive damages, and names the Illinois State Board of Elections as an additional defendant in requesting an injunction against any action to remove Scheurer from the November ballot as the Moderate Party candidate.

Scheurer says he has resumed the petition drive on advice of counsel, with Scheurer arguing his action is out of respect for the electoral calendar with its November 7 election date, and in deference to the Court and the State Board of Elections officials who will have to resolve this matter in time for ballots to be printed and delivered to polling places.

Scheurer has said if there is no challenge to his petitions, he will withdraw his lawsuit. On the other hand, if there are challenges, he will maintain the lawsuit and he has already resumed collecting signatures in hopes that the 60-day extension would be granted.

Indeed, today's parade participants may see Scheurer and his wife asking for 8th CD residents to sign his nominating petition at the July 4 parades and celebrations.

Even if Scheurer is challenged and removed from the ballot, he vows to fight on, as he also filed with the Board of Elections to run as a “write-in,” candidate. That is Scheurer’s Plan B, or would that be Plan C?

In any case, stay tuned, as we endeavor to discover what kind of a candidate, Ballot or write-in, that Bill Scheurer will be in the 8th CD.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at JBCG@aol.com