Thursday, February 2, 2012

Biggert's Republican primary challengers knocked off the ballot

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Unfortunately, a lot of elected officials express a loud sigh of relief when their opponents are knocked off the ballot. They think it's good but I disagree. Every elected officials should have to face a challenger. It should be mandatory. They don't like to hear it but the truth is if you are an elected official and you are doing a good, you have nothing to worry about.

It's when you sigh so loudly as Congresswoman Judy Biggert did recently when here two Republican opponents were knocked off the ballot in the March 20 Republican Primary that you have to worry about them.

The truth is having a challenger does a lot of good for an incumbent with a good record. And it's not so good for the incumbents who have been so-so.

I won't hit Ms. Biggert too hard, though I think she deserves criticism. She has been unresponsive to Orland Park and will probably be unresponsive in the new district. But, Biggert has the support of a loyal Republican who I admire tremendously, someone who I think understands the power of defeating your opponents by landslide margins, Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman. Gorman supports Biggert. I don't. I respect Gorman's judgment. She knows how to fight for her constituents and she will carry forever the gratitude of Cook County voters for standing up to former Cook County Board Chairman Todd Stroger's unjustified raising of the sales tax.

Despite the odds, Gorman won out. She persisted and tried three times to scale back the sales tax by half until she finally got the measure through. Abe Lincoln, another great Republican, persisted in his many failed efforts to get elected to public office. Gorman is a great leader and has a great future still ahead of her.

Biggert? Well, you have to judge people but what they have done. What did Biggert do? I don't know. What does she stand for? Well, we won't know now because she doesn't have to answer to any challengers. So she can save her money and say whatever she wants.

Candidates should have challengers for several important reasons:

1 - It's good for the voters. It forces the candidates to speak out publicly about the issues and it educates the voters and the public.
2 - It rallies your supporters. Biggert's allies don't have to do much. They can rest on their laurels -- maybe they are used to doing that -- until the late Spring once they know who the Democratic candidate will be.
3 - Candidates with challengers have a more legitimate reason to raise funds.
4 - Candidates with challengers who win, demonstrate in the clearest and most effective way why they are in fact leaders. Gorman is a leader. She stood up against two powerful challengers and beat them back by landslides.

Biggert will face one of three Democrats in the November General election. Former Congressman Bill Foster is in the race. Foster was about the most unresponsive Democratic member of the Congress who was easily ousted by a no-name Republican after serving only one full time. 

Foster won the special election to fill the vacancy created by former House Speaker Dennis Hastert by beating Jim Oberweis. Actually, Oberweis lost the election by uttering idiotic comments about immigrants and minorities and by not listening to his advisers who knew the issues better than he did. Foster, now in office, won with President Obama's backing in 2009. But in 2011, Foster took a beating, losing in a humiliating defeat to a little known member of the Illinois Legislature, Randy Hultgren.


The National Republican Congressional Committee said Bill Foster lost the 2010 election because he abandoned mainstream Americans in a tough economic time. "Illinois working families fired Bill Foster last Fall (Nov. 2010) because of his unwavering support for reckless spending, higher taxes and bigger government. Illinois voters understand that Bill Foster's tax and spend record was part of the problem and are unwilling to foot the bill again for his big spending" the Committee said in a statement.

Now, Foster is putting up his millions to stave off challenges from two other Democrats, former Aurora Township Clerk Juan Thomas, and Orland Fire Protection District President Jim Hickey. (I work for the OFPD as a media consultant and I am backing Hickey.)

While Foster has ducked and dodged public debates, Thomas and Hickey are planning for debates to help educate the public between now and March 20 about what their solutions and answers are to the nation's tragic economic problems.

The new 11th Congressional District is new to everyone. Biggert's old district was right next door. Foster's old district only includes a small portion of the new district. Hickey lives right next door and Thomas is in the district. But under election law, you don't have to and are not expected to live in new congressional districts to run for election, but must move in the district if you win. It's a common practice so residency is not really an issue for anyone, except maybe Foster, who's wife works in New York and who only recently moved into Batavia. (It's too confusing to keep track of his efforts to get back into the congressional insider's belt.)

The new 12th District is predominantly Democratic. The rumor is Biggert would like to see Foster win because he would be an easier target, despite his money. His poor record is a bigger disadvantage than his million dollar campaign war chest would be an asset.

Republicans would have been better off with a primary battle to define their candidate. Now, they're stuck with a veteran Washington D.C. insider who parroted the National Republican Party's partisan efforts to bring the nation to a grinding halt by blocking everything that Obama tried to do.

The fact is not having a battle will keep the divided national Republican party in uncertainty. The Tea Party nut jobs will be out in force and what they do will impact her candidacy dramatically.

She has issues, of course. Like her stake in the company that makes full body scanners. (Click to read.)

What does she stand for? Maybe we'll find out this summer. Probably not though. If anything, her bigger problem will be keeping the Tea Baggers happy enough to hold their nose and support her. (It's their only choice, and being associated with them will not help her cause in the predominantly Democratic District.) Illinois is planning a farewell party for several Republicans this election and Biggert has a solid chance of getting a one-way ticket out the Congressional door.

But it depends on which Democrat wins and runs against her. Foster, Thomas or Hickey.

-- Ray Hanania

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