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Shimkus to face tough opposition

Thursday, Jan 31, 2008

* On one of my first days as an intern on Capitol Hill I sat in the House gallery to watch the debate over raising the minimum wage. During some of the downtime a representative came up from the floor to talk to the citizens, and explain what exactly was taking place. He fielded questions from the audience, passed around his voting card, and was very helpful. What was most admirable about the gesture was that it was simply out of kindness, and not to gain anyone’s vote. That representative was John Shimkus.

In the upcoming election gestures like these may not be what stick out in voters’ minds. Shimkus will be facing off against Joe McKenamin of Springfield or Daniel Davis of Chatham, both of whom are vying for the Democratic nomination.

McMenamin and Davis squared off this week in an hour long debate at the University of Illinois at Springfield sponsored by the campus college Democrats. Both have as contrasting styles as their respective ages, with Davis at 26 and McMenamin at 55.

Davis speaks loudly and flowingly about how he wants to help people, connect with people, learn about and represent their interests. But specifics, at this point, are more difficult to come by.

McMenamin has something that Shimkus has — a military background. While Shimkus is a West Point graduate, McMenamin is a lawyer and 26-year member of the Illinois Army National Guard who’s served a year in Afghanistan. His service has given him strong feelings about the Iraq war, and while his manner of speech is sometimes halting, he exudes emotion when he talks of what he sees as the United States taking a wrong turn in Iraq.

No matter who wins the race to go up against Shimkus, both will go after his discarded, self-imposed congressional term limit of a twelve years. Voters don’t take kindly to broken campaign promises. Pledges like “Read my lips, no new taxes” come to mind.

* President Bush has also taken a liking to Representative Shimkus:

President George Bush pulled U.S. Rep. John Shimkus into the Oval Office on Friday to ask the Southern Illinois congressman to reconsider his stance on term limits.

Shimkus was also instrumental in bringing the President to Collinsville on Jan. 6 for a medical malpractice rally.

Steve Tomaszewski, Shimkus spokesman, said another reason why the congressman was tapped by the president was because of the recent passage of the energy bill, something the president has long awaited. Shimkus is senior member of the House Energy Conference Committee.

With an abysmal approval rating of around 20%, this connection to the President is not likely to go over well in 08′. At the debate McMenamin took a shot at this when he said:

He also thinks the war in Afghanistan was appropriate in the aftermath of 9/11, but the Iraq war saw the United States go “down a reckless path (led) by a trigger-happy president and a yes-man-dominated Congress, including our own Congressman Shimkus.”

* The mostly civil debate turned a bit heated at one point though when the two candidates went after each other. Davis, a Harrisburg native, brought up the fact that he lives in the 19th and has for most of his life, while McMenamin doesn’t. Davis recently moved from Springfield to Chatham to be within the boundaries. The law requires a member of Congress to live in the state, but not necessarily in the district. McMenamin asked for a rebuttal on that one, and responded:

“Daniel, I’ve lived in Springfield 28 years. That’s longer than you’ve lived your entire life,” McMenamin said. He noted he lived in Shimkus’ district for some years — redistricting after the 2000 Census created new boundaries, and Shimkus went from representing the old 20th to the new 19th.

The 19th, which is one of three congressional districts that includes part of Springfield, leans Republican and extends to Pope and Massac counties at the southern edge of the state. However, Senator Durbin previously held the seat before Shimkus. No matter who wins the nomination either candidate will press Congressman Shimkus on both his allegiance to President Bush and his broken campaign promise.

- Posted by Kevin Fanning        


28 Comments
  1. - ahoy! - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 2:05 pm:

    but can they get any funding?


  2. - Kevin Fanning - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 2:06 pm:

    that’s the million dollar question


  3. - Tin Foil Hat Crowd - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 2:22 pm:

    The last real challange that Shimkus had was Hoffman in 1996. Since then the DCCC has stayed clear. They require candidates to raise X # of dollars and then they still evaluate them against every other candidate nationally. Neither of these candidates has what it takes, and there hasn’t been a good candidate against Shimkus since Jeff Cooper in 2000.


  4. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 2:24 pm:

    Term limits don’t seem to be that big of an issue anymore with the 1990’s “Contract with America” fading into distant memory. Sen. Lauzen of thre 25th has outrun his promise by several years, and voters in his district don’t hold it against him. Voters are the ultimate determinors of “term limits” anyway, especially since in this case the President asked Shimkus to reconsider his stance for the good of the country, and SoIL folks still respect the office if not the Current Occupant so much.


  5. - Team America, World Police - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 2:43 pm:

    Good analysis, Kevin! As a Kirk supporter, we’re being mindful of how the rest of the IL GOP delegation will fare in the general. Keep it up!


  6. - Downstater - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 2:44 pm:

    My admiration for Shimkus increases each year. Those that meet him, realize he’s not some cold calculating politician, but rather someone with an open heart that’s truly dedicated to serving.

    In addition to the funding problem for his opponents, any Democratic opposition will be running on the idea that what this country and Southern Illinois really needs is one more vote for Nancy Pelosi. That won’t really play well south of I-70.

    And, as I’ve mentioned before, who do you bring in to help boost the visibility of a Democrat in the 19th? Nancy Pelosi? Hillary Clinton? Govenor Blagojevich? (Barak would be the exception) Eveyone else in the Democratic party is just a reminder that most people don’t support a more inflated form of government.


  7. - Carl Nyberg - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 2:49 pm:

    Downstater, who inflated the since of government more? GWB or Clinton?

    Tell us how Shimkus fought Bush’s plan to expand the size and power of the federal government.

    Republicans spend so much time talking to themselves and consuming their own lying media outlets they seem to actually not know the facts of the matters on which they speak or write.


  8. - Carl Nyberg - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 2:50 pm:

    So, when has Shimkus’ heart caused him to show the testicular virility to stand up to his own party bosses? Or does Shimkus’ compassion stop when partisan politics get involved?


  9. - Downstater - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 3:11 pm:

    Carl, I don’t disagree that Bush has been a dissapointment on controlling Government spending. But the blame on that is not going to be laid at the feet of John Shimkus.

    Any Democratic candidate will have a tough time convincing voters, in this part of the state, that they, or their party, will be more financially responsible.


  10. - Ron - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 3:13 pm:

    Kevin What rock have you ben hiding under? Shimkus won the race last year with over 61% of the vote in a down year for Republicans and the taint of the Foley scandel. Shimkus has done a very admirable job as a conservative Republican.
    As for as Cooper, he did worse than most of the other Democrats that ran against Shimkus.
    You can be a booster for the democrats, but you sure don’t know the district.


  11. - Carl Nyberg - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 3:14 pm:

    What are the Republicans proposing cutting from the federal budget that would save taxpayers half the money of cutting Bush’s excellent adventure in Iraq?

    Social Security?


  12. - Carl Nyberg - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 3:18 pm:

    Every Republican who loses b/c of the Iraq War makes it more likely the United States will leave Iraq sooner rather than later.

    Remember, the GOP standard bearer (can I assume McCain has won?) advocated staying in Iraq 100 years.

    If Shimkus thinks McCain’s ideas about staying in Iraq are wrong, why hasn’t he had the courage to speak the truth? Because he’s a pro-occupation toady? He is afraid of being ostracized in the GOP caucus?

    Or maybe Shimkus is willing to stay in Iraq for a 100 years, as long as Halliburton and other Shimkus campaign contributors are using the occupation to fleece U.S. taxpayers? As long as Shimkus gets a kickback, he’s willing to send other peoples’ children to die in Iraq.


  13. - Downstater - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 3:22 pm:

    Carl,
    “What are the Republicans proposing cutting from the federal budget that would save taxpayers half the money of cutting Bush’s excellent adventure in Iraq?”

    It’s tough to put that PLUS Shimkus opponent’s name on a bumper sticker.

    Bush’s latest budget looks to hold everything at last year’s spending levels. That, plus the increasing government revenues (courtesy of the lower tax rates) will hopefully start to reverse the direction of our growing budget deficits.


  14. - Rob_N - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 3:41 pm:

    Ahoy! asked if they can get funding…

    Shimkus is going to be all on his own in terms of funding. At the rate Republicans are retiring from Congress, the RNCC will have dozens of open seats to defend. This comes on top of their debt (they have no money in the bank to defend those open seats).

    Their priorities will be to defend the open seats, challenge weak Dems they think they can knock off, and then protect weak incumbents… all with a negative bank balance. (And the RNC will be busy helping the presidential candidate so it’s not like they can come riding to the rescue.)

    Shimkus does not currently fall into any of those categories; meaning his Dem opponent will know exactly how much money they’ll be up against — just look at Shimkus’ own funds.

    As for Kevin’s points, I see association with Bush as a negative if it can get traction through advertising and earned media. The “broken promise” on the term limit is a bit of a non-starter for most voters. Incumbents break the ’self-imposed term limit’ promise all the time with no reprisal.

    But, if it can be tied into a larger theme it may get more traction — say, something along the lines of Shimkus having lost his Midwestern values (I’m just saying that as an example, I don’t know the guy):

    “…He broke his promise on term limits.

    …He covered up for disgraced Republican Rep. Mark Foley when he led the page program.

    …He’s followed the Bush agenda on A, B and C.

    I’m X and I approved this message because John Shimkus has lost his Midwestern values and it’s time we send a Congressman to Washington who will never lose sight of where he comes from. Vote for me this November….”

    There’s your free advice for the day, Dem candidates.


  15. - Carl Nyberg - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 3:43 pm:

    Why not cut taxes to zero and generate an infinite amount of government revenue?

    If you believe cutting taxes automatically increases government revenue you are either a moron or a a kook. But you’ll be happy to know either makes you eligible to be a movement conservative.


  16. - Rob_N - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 3:45 pm:

    Downstater must be joking when writing: “That, plus the increasing government revenues (courtesy of the lower tax rates) will hopefully start to reverse the direction of our growing budget deficits.” (emphasis added)

    Econ 101, when your base demographic stays static you can’t increase revenues by decreasing prices.

    Trickle down voodoo economics didn’t work under Reagan (he ended up raising taxes, twice) and they still don’t work, no matter how many times you click your ruby slippers together.


  17. - Downstater - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 3:47 pm:

    Carl,
    Very nice. Your personal attack really helps elevate the level of discourse.


  18. - thegreatmags - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 4:11 pm:

    meh, I think Shimkus should be fine. A lot can happy from now until November though.


  19. - Downstater - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 4:13 pm:

    Rob N,
    Okay, why don’t we argue on the facts. The Bush tax reduction should have impacted the total revenue for the government, right? Well, here are the facts. US Government receipts were as follows (in trillions of dollars):

    2000 $2.025
    2001 $2.137
    2002 $2.192
    2003 $2.258
    2004 $2.339
    2005 $2.438
    2006 $2.529

    This sure flies in the face of the idea that tax revenue decreases with less of a tax burden. Business and Investors look for opportunity when taxes are less of a burden. In particular, Investors spring to the market when Capital Gains rates are reduced. The increased activity more than makes up for the actual percentage reduction in the tax rate. Of course, that’s only provded out by the numbers.


  20. - Rob_N - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 5:06 pm:

    While you’re dealing in facts, Downstater, perhaps you could also look into a little bit of context.

    Total revenue for the Federal government (which you note) doesn’t take into account the 50 states’ budgets, now does it?

    From Stateline:

    “Despite doling out $20 billion in fiscal aid to state governments, President Bush’s $350 billion tax cut bill will drive down total state tax collections by at least $1 billion and as much as $3 billion over the next two years, dampening the bill’s positive impact on state coffers, analysts say.

    That’s because nearly every state piggybacks portions of its tax code on the federal code to ease the tax-filing burden on individuals and businesses. As a result, the package of tax cuts Bush signed May 28 will force corresponding tax cuts in many states, barring state action to decouple from the federal tax code.

    Viewed in the context of total state general fund spending, which exceeds $500 billion a year, the billion dollar-plus revenue loss from the federal tax bill is not huge. But with many states facing the tightest budgets they’ve seen in a generation and lawmakers balancing teacher layoffs against cutting road construction against raising taxes, some state officials would have preferred to avoid even this small loss.”


  21. - Team Sleep - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 5:12 pm:

    Kevin, my boy, I must say that your first day as overall moderator and main poster has gone well. However, you are WAY off-base on this one. Shimkus works very hard, has a competent staff and represents the overall values of the district. And his district isn’t really “leans Republican” - it’s HARD “R” all the way.

    Carl, I am with you in my belief that the Iraq War should have never begun and should end ASAP. However, there are a good deal of people south of I-80 who don’t feel that way. The 19th CD is certainly more pro-war than most other districts.


  22. - Bud Man - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 5:29 pm:

    Kevin,

    President Bush Job ApprovalPoll Date Approve Disapprove Spread
    RCP Average 01/10 - 01/22 34.3% 61.7% -27.4%
    NBC/WSJ 01/20 - 01/22 31% 63% -32%
    LA Times/Bloomberg 01/18 - 01/22 34% 62% -28%
    Rasmussen 01/19 - 01/21 37% 61% -24%
    CNN 01/14 - 01/17 34% 63% -29%
    USA Today/Gallup 01/10 - 01/13 34% 60% -26%
    Hotline/FD 01/10 - 01/12 36% 61% -25%


  23. - Bud Man - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 5:34 pm:

    Rob N -

    Then maybe states should start raising taxes. A vast majority of the services government delivers are found at the state and local level anyway. Just because states are getting hurt does not change the fact that reveues for the federal government increased after the tax cuts.


  24. - ex dtrip denizen - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 6:58 pm:

    Shimkus’ opponents only hope is if he sits down with Hamas and calls them his best friends. Otherwise, this seat stays R. (Look up Findley, P.)


  25. - SouthernILRepub - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 9:57 pm:

    Several points to address here about Shimkus’ safe seat.

    1. 2002 vs. Phelps 54%
    2004 vs. Bagwell 69%
    2006 vs. Stover almost 61%

    2. In you own post you cited that he was a very helpful and informative individual.

    3. This So. IL district is only turning more and more red. The only thing that potentially keeps Shimkus from being the next Hyde or Crane (in terms of # of terms) is the remap to effect the 2012 races.

    4. Hardest working political and legislative staff of downstate Il Congressional delegation.

    5. He has a great farm team, his fundraisers are all very well respected.

    6. He occasionaly makes wierd statements, but nothing that rises to the level of Durbin’s prison comments. Comments like Durbin’s would normally kill a career but Illinois Repubs can’t even put forth a legitimate candidate. The only legitimate candidate against Shimkus would have to be a Dem member of the ILGA and they don’t want to take the risk or leave leadership positions.

    7. His connection to Bush would only make him stronger is some parts of the 19th. I would guess that parts of the 19th Bush could hover w/ 45% approval ratings.

    8. His early support of John McCain will only make him stronger to the moderates and the security conservatives.

    Overall analysis either Dem candidate should consider themselves lucky if they hit 42%


  26. - Rob_N - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 11:16 pm:

    Bud Man,

    Nice try, but states raising taxes would negate any decrease in taxes at the Federal level. And, given that it would be scattershot across 50 entities rather than one, it would lead to more inefficiencies and variabilities which could negatively influence regional and national economies…


  27. - vajaja - Thursday, Jan 31, 08 @ 11:39 pm:

    You should remember that everything a politician does is for votes, esspecially when they are playing nice to visitors at the state capitol.


  28. - Anonymous - Friday, Feb 1, 08 @ 9:25 pm:

    McMenamin has the best chance to knock off Shimkus since 1996 when Shimkus made his broken pledge


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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