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Weller district: No clear favorite? Plus, two looks at the race to replace LaHood

Friday, Sep 28, 2007

* CQPolitics (Congressional Quarterly’s online service) claims there are “four highly competitive [congressional] races” in Illinois.

Retiring Republican Jerry Weller’s seat is listed as “No Clear Favorite,” which seems to be a growing consensus these days. Perennial targeted Democrat Melissa Bean’s district is listed as “Leans Democratic.”

CQ has Mark Kirk’s seat and retiring GOP Congressman Denny Hastert’s district as “Leans Republican.” Two districts are ranked as “Republican Favored,” including freshman Peter Roskam and retiring Congressman Ray LaHood’s seat.

* Bob Novak, who has claimed that Weller’s district leans toward a Democratic takeover, has a different take on LaHood’s seat. While Novak eventually concludes that the outlook leans towards a Republican retention, he also says it’s nearly a tossup because of a celebrity Democratic candidate…

Illinois-18: The entrance of former basketball coach Dick Versace (D) brings to a near tossup the race for the Peoria-based seat left open by the retirement Rep. Ray LaHood (R).

Versace was the head basketball coach in the 1980s at Bradley University in Peoria, the golden era of the program. He later coached the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, worked as an on-air commentator and served as the head coach of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies. The other Democrat in the rate is retired Navy Captain Chuck Giger (D).

The Republican field features 26-year-old State Rep. Aaron Schock (R), Peoria businessman Jim McConoughey (R) and former Peoria City Councilman John Morris (R). Rep. LaHood’s son, Darin LaHood (R), took a pass and is instead challenging the incumbent state’s attorney.

Versace’s wide name recognition combines with a likely strong Democratic year in Illinois to wipe out the generic advantage a Republican has in this district, which Bush won by 5.5 points in 2004 and which has been in Republican hands for 70 years (including former Minority Leader Bob Michel). Versace has media experience, but as a political rookie, possibly facing more seasoned (although much younger) opponents, he faces many likely pitfalls. This one could swing the other way if Versace proves to be a strong candidate, but right now it is still tilting towards the Republicans. Leaning Republican Retention.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Ilrino - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 9:01 am:

    And in the 11th, Radogno and Halvorson say they’re taking a pass and will stay in the Senate. Brady tempted but probably won’t go. So is anyone notable interested?

  2. - Anon - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 9:02 am:

    If the rumor that Christine Radogno has decided not to run is true, the field will be wide open.

  3. - Ghost - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 9:16 am:

    Versace may be a rookie to Government politics, buyt I would not call him a political rookie. Anyone who thinks collegiate coaching does not require its own bit of politics and political savy is a bit niave. Besides I am tired of the old saw about inexperience. This was the same attack hurled at Lisa Madigan who is doing a fantastic job. Perhaps we need more people who are inexperienced in governemtn to make it run better.

  4. - Fire Ron Guenther - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 9:52 am:

    If the Democrats do not nominate a Will County resident for the 11th, the GOP keeps the seat. The Will County Democrats (especially in Joliet) are very provincial and protective of their turf. Ask Frank Giglio about the lack of support he got from them in 1994 when Weller won the open seat.

  5. - Gus Frerotte's Clipboard - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 9:56 am:

    Versace/Schock would have a chance to be one of the most interesting Congressional races in the country. Versace could well be a formidable and fascinating candidate, and we all know Schock is an outstanding campaigner with a lot of energy.

  6. - Anon - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 9:58 am:

    I think that assumes the joliet/will county democrats are organized or energized enough to do anything of value for a candidate in a district that covers 6 counties…you know, other than in-fight.

  7. - ArchPundit - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 10:02 am:

    Schock has a disapproval number of 1%. Now his overall name ID in the District is around 50, but given Peoria is the Democratic area of the District, they apparently polled Peoria Pundit to get the 1%. He’s going to be very tough to beat.

    Versace could make a run, but this is less likely than the other races and Schock has done a very good job of building his brand.

  8. - Lamont from Lemont - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 10:13 am:

    Anon 9:02: The field is wide open whether the unstoppable glorious political juggernaut known as Radogno runs or not.

    I’m being sarcastic and I hope you were as well.

  9. - Team Sleep - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 10:17 am:

    If Schock does NOT win the GOP nomination, I will eat my Red Sox hat. If he does NOT win the general election, I will eat my David Ortiz jersey. Not really, of course, because both were a gift and the material would probably taste bad.

    The 11th CD is going to come down to who Jerry Weller backs. If it is the New Lenox mayor (as I have heard), he should win. Radogno and Halvorson sitting out the race means each party loses the marquee candidate who has name ID and fundraising ability. Pavich could make a run, but I think his numbers last November were partly inflated by the anti-GOP tide and some of Weller’s bad press.

    I think Careen Gordon would be a good candidate for the 11th CD. She fits the mold of many Dems that took over traditional GOP Congressional seats in 2006: moderate, young(er) and a good campaigner.

    As for Kirk’s district, I do think he can be beat by Seals. Bean came back from a loss to Crane and beat him by a slim margin in 2004, and I could see the same happening in the 10th CD if Seals can make a big push.

  10. - Dick Allen's Batting Helmet - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 10:18 am:

    Clipboard: I’d rather watch reruns of Maude. In black and white. On a Montgomery Wards TV picked up at the Salvation Army. That doesn’t work.

    A 70 year-old basketball coach versus an annoying punk. Order the kegs and popcorn now.

  11. - Rich Miller - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 10:20 am:

    TS, What’s Weller gonna do, issue a press release from Guatamala? His endorsement could be the kiss of death in a general. If I was running as a Repub, I’d gather up his supporters, so in that sense, you’re right. But I’d also run away from him publicly as fast as possible.

  12. - Anonymous - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 10:26 am:

    Did no one hear the wailing of Democratic and Republican city and county officials about Weller leaving because he could and did deliver for them.

    Weller’s endorsement will count with them.

  13. - Gus Frerotte's Clipboard - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 10:26 am:

    Dick Allen, good point — it could turn out to be the beloved local figure with national television experience vs. the energetic and bright young rising star, or it could turn out to be the old guy who doesn’t know anything about politics against the young guy who rubs people the wrong way. But it offers a lot more hope than “career politician vs. wealthy businessman/lawyer,” which is what some of these races turn out to be. At least is has some upside potential, to borrow an NBA draft term (not sure if it has “freakish wingspan” or not).

  14. - ahoy! - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 10:38 am:

    In the 18th the Democratic primary is going to be a wash while the Republic primary could be expensive and testy. If they beat up on one another while Versace cruises in the Primary the general could swing Democrat especailly if Obama is on the ticket. I rate this a toss up. (for now)

  15. - Fire Ron Guenther - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 10:49 am:

    I thought State Rep. Careen Gordon (D-Morris) ruled out a run. Besides, after the nasty race she had last time vs. Jason Briscoe, (her ex-husband wrote a letter to the editor) I think she sits this out.

  16. - Team Sleep - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 11:10 am:

    Rich, Weller can call county chairmen, supporters and donors to help out whomever he backs. He can also send his staff and campaign help to assist the guy. I know his “endorsement” could be this kiss of death BUT his behind-the-scenes actions could result in a big boost.

  17. - Squideshi - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 11:23 am:

    Weller’s district isn’t particularly Republican or Democrat–it’s primarily suburban and rural. Any candidate speaking to the important issues, such as a third-airport in Peotone, or reprocessing of the world’s nuclear waste into weapons-grade plutonium on the border in Morris, has a chance in this race.

  18. - Sango Dem - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 11:54 am:

    Novak thinks Versace has name recognition? That may be true in Peoria but this is a big district. No one outside of Peoria knows who he is or cares about his long-ago basketball career.
    Not having a strong candidate results from years of the state Democratic Party not investing in building a downstate farm team.

  19. - Dick Allen's Batting Helmet - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 12:09 pm:

    Gus: I did not see it that way but thank you for at least addressing my concern. I have to admit it will be a liitle different than usual, if that is the matchup next November. See you later at Ray’s Patio Inn.

  20. - Independent - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 12:41 pm:

    If I recall correctly Versace’s tenure with Bradley ended with the NCAA putting them on probation due to recruiting violations. Since Bradley made the Sweet 16 in ‘06 I doubt their fans are clinging to the early/mid ’80s success Versace had.

    I’m not sure Versace can even survive a primary but if he wins the seat it would be due more to a vote against Republicans than for Versace.

  21. - Pot calling Kettle - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 2:24 pm:

    Anon 10:26 — I’m not sure how much real support Weller had among elected officials. I suspect a fair amount of support came from fear that he would cut them off.

    His idea of “delivering” was to show up with the giant check that some local grant-writer worked their *** off to earn. Weller had a reputation for offering little, if any, help during the application process.

  22. - Pot calling Kettle - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 2:26 pm:

    I came in this morning and posted this on yesterday’s Weller thread (thanks for the new one Rich).

  23. - Pot calling Kettle - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 2:26 pm:

    Arch & Rob - You may not come back and read this, but in case you do…I understand the limitations, but I have noticed that each cycle, the CC’s pick a couple of candidates that do meet appear to meet their normal “criteria” (small party base in dist., no experience, no $$)and push lots of donors in their direction only to lose (surprise, surprise). I would just like to see what would happen if they spread around the love a bit more.

    I’ll look for a thread in the next few weeks to expand on this, but I would like to see them use a few dollars to present basic training to prospects, follow that up with some minor support, and see who flies. This could work esp. well with the state parties, but has potential at the national level as well.

  24. - Six Degrees of Separation - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 2:40 pm:


    I assume you are against the Peotone Airport and the reprocessing facility at Morris, and that you think these would be the huge campaign issues to win the 11th.

    I would suggest any candidate who beat these 2 issues to death in a primary would receive, oh, 1% of the vote or so. Not that I think Peotone is a 10 of 10 on a scale of worthy projects, but the primary opposition is from a small group of landowners and small town residents (and Mayor Daley who doesn’t live in the district). And the people in Grundy County have been living with nuclear issues since Dresden first opened in 1960, and though many aren’t crazy about it, most have learned to live with it in their backyard.

  25. - ArchPundit - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 2:41 pm:

    What’s interesting about that is that is exactly what they did for Pavich and he flunked the test.

    I’m not entirely disagreeing with you about the dysfunction, but there’s a tension. Does DCCC come in and anoint a candidate and make the locals angry or do they not support a local and make them angry?

    I think there is something to making someone stand on their own two feet–give them a thumbs up, but you cannot tell who will do their call time and be effective until they are doing it. It’s at least a threshold standard to weed people out.

    In terms of training, I’d rather it not be DCCC. I’d rather have Wellstone Action, DFA or any other affinity group do it so we don’t have the DCCC telling the candidates to say the same damn bad advice from the consultants every time.

    We had several examples of bad candidates DCCC backed last time in the primary who didn’t even make it out of the primary. Getting them to stay out in general other than recruiting and a thumbs up for candidates without real opposition I think gives people a better chance to get past the primary without DC dictating the choice.

    OTH, the RNCC is very active in all aspects of a campaign and tends to take sides quite a bit more. I’m not sure that is healthy and certainly the cultural differences between the parties mean it wouldn’t translate well.

  26. - Pot calling Kettle - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 2:51 pm:

    To clarify & expand using the Weller Dist:

    What if, this past spring, a prospect goes to the DCCC and proposes a run against Weller. The DCCC says, “Complete to our week long training session in May, and we’ll talk.” Training session includes developing a campaign plan, which is submitted for critique and fund-raising goals and tips. If the candidate passes the class, they get a little organizational assistance and some seed $$$. DCCC knows whose running, has an early chance to give advice, builds some good feelings… Weller drops out in the 11th, we aren’t 1/2 way through petition time wondering who will run, instead we have one or two dems moving forward with a reasonable idea of where they are headed.

    I know I’m dreaming, but they could start with Camp Wellstone and go from there.

  27. - Pot calling Kettle - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 2:56 pm:

    Arch — I typed while you were posting. Our thoughts run along the same lines. I think the training, plan submission, & critique components are important. A small review panel screens the plans with no requirement to anoint candidate, just say if it’s a workable plan.

  28. - True Observer - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 3:13 pm:

    Attila the Hun had a plan, provided training and must have critiqued.

    He was also successfull.


  29. - Pot calling kettle - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 3:17 pm:

    It’s hard to win hearts and minds without a plan for doing so and some $$$ to spread the word.

  30. - Team Sleep - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 4:11 pm:

    Arch, I “dig” your comments. You are correct: the NRCC often can drive a big wedge in between party factions. From the 1999 through 2005, it seems as though the NRCC only wanted to recruit pro-Bush candidates who would lay down for them and just keep taking their advice and money. This includes incumbents who withstood the 2001 nationwide redistricting. The end result was a poor showing last year, and the NRCC externally wonders why their losses were so great while internally they must be kicking themselves.

    The NRCC also seems to continue recruiting candidates that don’t appear to pay attention to trends and polls. If the NRCC wants to have a group of candidates who are hawkish and don’t care how bad tax cuts for the wealthy look, that’s fine - BUT they shouldn’t be shocked if the Dems win even more seats in 2008.

    As such, I think Boehner and Blunt need to go. Boehner’s hissy fit with Tom Cole doesn’t help matters, and he appears to be a more tanned and better-dressed version of Bill Frist: ineffective and too calm. And Blunt is just a D.C. insider who could care less. If the NRCC wants to be on a tough-minded message, it needs to be run and monitored by guys like Jeff Flake, Mike Pence, Jeb Hensnarling, Adam Putnam, Kenny Hulsof, etc.

  31. - Super Mega - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 4:36 pm:

    My thoughts on competitive races in IL this cycle -

    CD6 - Peter Roskam re-elected.

    CD8 - If Kirk Morris is nominated, Bean could have a real run for her money. If Steve Greenberg is the nominee, Bean wins easily.

    CD10 - Mark Kirk re-elected.

    CD11 - Tim Baldermann, Chris McNeil, or Art Schulz could all be the next Congressman from this district.

    CD14 - Jim Oberweis is the next Congressman from this district. Lauzen doesn’t have the operation to make this happen.

    CD18 - Whoever wins the GOP nomination is the next Congressman from this district. My money is on Jim McConoughey, I really think Schock should run for re-election as a state rep. The GOP will lose that seat otherwise.

  32. - ElaObserver - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 5:25 pm:

    In CD8, Morris & Arnold split the non-Greenberg vote. Greenberg gets the nomination. In CD10, Kirk loses if he’s swiftboated.

  33. - Squideshi - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 5:29 pm:

    “Not that I think Peotone is a 10 of 10 on a scale of worthy projects, but the primary opposition is from a small group of landowners and small town residents (and Mayor Daley who doesn’t live in the district).”

    I would not, by any means, say that the opposition to the proposed airport is small–just one of the opposition groups alone–STAND–has thousands of members that are going to aggressively contribute to and work to elect a candidate who is opposed to the idea of building an airport near Peotone.

    “And the people in Grundy County have been living with nuclear issues since Dresden first opened in 1960, and though many aren’t crazy about it, most have learned to live with it in their backyard.”

    Not only have they been dealing with Dresden but also Braidwood and LaSalle in this “nuclear triangle” and many think that type of concentration in one area is just about enough. Plus, the nuclear waste at the plants has been relatively stationary–there’s a big difference when you start to propose moving it around and through people’s communities (Especially since DOT has acknowledged that there is no question IF there will be accidents but, rather, only how many, how often, and when.)

  34. - ZNorm - Saturday, Sep 29, 07 @ 1:21 am:

    In the 18th District, Chuck Giger dropped out on Thursday clearing the way for Dick Versace to get a free ride through the Democratic primary. There’s a lot more to Versace’s backstory than coaching. He was the first NBA coach of Puerto Rican ancestry. His mother was the author of the book that became “The Flying Nun.” His brother, “Rocky” was executed by the Vietcong and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously. Against this backdrop, Versace is adamantly anti-war while being very supportive of veterans and that will be the issue here and nationwide. I think it will play well that he could have settled anywhere in the country and he moved back to Peoria. In addition, he has name recognition, money and a lot of friends with money.

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