Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Scheurer, Bean and McSweeney: A cozy threesome in 8th CD

It’s official. Moderate Party candidate Bill Scheurer is on the ballot in the November 7 election in the 8th CD. A senior Democratic Party operative was surprised, saying that he thought Speaker Mike would challenge Scheurer’s nominating petitions if for no other reason than Scheurer had sued Speaker Mike Madigan, the Chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party and clearly now the most powerful Democrat in the State of Illinois. There was a time when Mayor Daley had that title, but not with the new Sheriff [Patrick Fitzgerald] in town.

On the other hand, people tell me there are three things that no one ever wants to see: (1) legislation being made, (2) sausage being made and (3) the dark side of Chicago's 23rd Ward organization. [See here]. Democratic operatives suggest to me that former Congressman and 23rd Ward Committeeman Bill Lipinski may now owe Speaker Mike [and DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel] a favor or two. And, Bill is not alone in that.
Jeff Berkowitz: You are now sure …that you are on the ballot in the 8th Cong. Dist. as the Moderate Party candidate, right?

Bill Scheurer: That’s what it looks like. We called both Chicago and Springfield and they told us that every objection that has been filed has been posted to the website and we’re not one of the candidates [that has drawn an objection.]. [Ed. Note: This has been confirmed both by visiting the Illinois Board of Elections website and by speaking with the employees in the Board of Elections office].

Berkowitz: So you are withdrawing your lawsuit at this point?

Scheurer: Oh, we will, yes. As soon as I talk to my lawyer, I will ask him to withdraw it.

Berkowitz: How do you feel?

Scheurer: We feel great. I mean, the amount of work that it took with my wife and I and dozens and dozens of volunteers and helpers-- it was incredible.

Berkowitz: What kind of an organization do you have now?

Bill Scheurer: One that is pretty pumped up and hopefully growing.

Berkowitz: Do you have any full time staff, or are your wife and you it?

Bill Scheurer: No, we haven’t hired any full time stuff. We haven’t even begun significant fundraising activities because, unlike the other parties, we’ve had to go out and slog it out through this whole petition drive. We’re going to schedule a campaign kick-off announcement, hopefully sometime soon and actually get involved with the business of campaigning.

Berkowitz: Certain members in the media [including this one] have written that it looks like you could affect things because you might get 1% or 5% of the vote, and therefore could affect the outcome between the major party candidates. Do you disagree with that analysis?

Bill Scheurer: Sure, I mean 40% of voters are independent; 30% belong to one party, 30% belong to another party, everything is up for grabs.

Berkowitz: Can we get you on my television show?

Bill Scheurer: Yeah, love to.
The conventional wisdom is that Scheurer can do little here but drain Democratic votes from Cong. Bean [D-Barrington], getting a total of 1% to 5% and tilt the election toward Republican investment banker David McSweeney [R- Barrington Hills], who describes himself as an independent conservative, and whose message focuses on cutting taxes and spending and maintaining and strengthening the country’s national defense.

Congresswoman Bean [D-Barrington, 8th CD] appears to focus on broad, general themes such as representing and being in touch with her District and its constituents. Whether it is the War, taxes or spending, she states her views in more measured [and McSweeney would argue vague and ambiguous] tones than McSweeney [See generally here and here]. The conventional wisdom is that those tones are dictated by the fact that Bean is a Democrat running in a District that went 56 % to 44 % for Bush over Kerry and the District is viewed as solidly Republican. This wisdom says that Bean didn’t win the election in 2004 [52% to 48% margin] as much as an out of touch, 35 year Republican incumbent, Phil Crane, lost it.

The one attribute that McSweeney and Bean share is that both are extremely driven, hard workers and as hard as Bean works at “representing and serving her constituents,” McSweeney works at walking the precincts, attending community events and meeting the voters.

They both support the Iraq and Afghanistan War. McSweeney, however, sees nuanced differences that he would argue show his support is stronger. Bean says she has supported all the extensions of the Bush tax cuts that have been put before her. McSweeney wants to be more aggressive on tax cuts and argues for making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Bean was one of fifteen Democrats who supported CAFTA, arguing her environmental and labor standard conditions to support a trade agreement were met. McSweeney would have supported CAFTA and criticizes Bean for not, in his view, being up-front with her labor supporters and telling them she would support CAFTA.

Enter Bill Scheurer, stage left, with his support for “peaceful diplomacy,” and his opposition to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. He supports balanced budgets, but the suspicion among many is that he will favor increased taxes more than cuts in spending, unless that is military spending. Scheurer clearly would oppose [or modify significantly] many, if not all, of the Bush tax cuts, on the grounds that he thinks they are skewed to the rich.

Congresswoman Bean also says she favors a “pay as you go policy,” i.e., any increase in spending must be matched by a new revenue source or a corresponding cut in spending. For his part, McSweeney favors a freeze on total federal spending, with the exception of Social Security, Homeland Security and National Defense. McSweeney would however support, within the context of his proposed freeze, increases in some departments , e.g., breast cancer research and decreases in others, e.g., abolishing the Department of Education.

Although Scheurer argues that he is far from a single issue candidate [and lists about twenty on his web site], the trade issue will no doubt be a major focus of his campaign, along with the War issue. He will argue that on both of those issues, as well as many others, there is no choice for voters between Bean and McSweeney and that he will give voters the voice they need if they are concerned about the War in Iraq and jobs going overseas.

We have invited all three candidates to appear together on “Public Affairs,” and McSweeney has given me times he can do it for the next few weeks and Scheurer has said, above, “Love to.” Bean’s spokesperson, Brian Herman, was non-committal, but asked for the request to be put in writing.

Herman would not comment, on the record, this afternoon when I asked him to discuss what Congresswoman Bean thought of Scheurer being placed on the ballot.

Republican nominee David McSweeney, on the other hand, said, this afternoon, “I welcome Bill to the race and look forward to debating the important issues with Melissa Bean and him.”

I asked McSweeney about Bean spokesman Brian Herman’s recent statement that Scheurer being on the ballot essentially helps Congresswoman Bean in that it allows her to argue that she is the centrist in the race, bookended by Scheurer and McSweeney [See here]. McSweeney responded, “I look at Melissa Bean as voting with the liberal Democratic Leadership in Congress 83% of the time and that voting record is not consistent with or representative of the views of the people in the 8th Cong. District.”

This should be interesting. It’s a three way race: Scheurer, Bean and McSweeney. We don’t have a lot of these threesomes in House races across the United States, so we don’t have a lot of empirical evidence to predict the outcome. Scheurer argues he is not a marginal candidate and will do much better than the 1% to 5 %, the vote total at which the media have tended to peg him, based in large part on his third party status.

Moderate Party 8th CD candidate Bill Scheurer says he could win it all, and refers the media to Third Party Presidential Candidate Ross Perot’s 19 % effort in 1992, which, by the way, drained more votes from Bush 41 than Bill Clinton, thereby helping to elect Mr. Bill President for his first time. [Although, at one point in 1992, the polls had Perot beating both Mr. Bill and W’s father. Of course, Scheurer will not have a level of resources analogous to that of Perot to support his campaign, unless Big Labor decides to make an example out of the 8th CD-- and there is no indication of that]. Essentially Bill Scheurer argues that his base is the 40% of the voters whom he characterizes as “independents,” or at least a large chunk of them. Let’s see what the voters say and do.