When Peter Fitzgerald announced last April that he wasn’t going to run for reelection, his office became the grail that every bold adventurer who presumes to call him- or herself a public servant was bound to quest after. For Democrats it was the chance of a lifetime: an open U.S. Senate seat in a state that at the moment seems to be crazy for Democrats. For Republicans the opportunity’s even greater, in a way. Their organization’s a shambles, and Fitzgerald was too much of a maverick to be the one who put the pieces back together. Win or lose, the Republican nominee will be in a powerful position to reshape the party.
So everyone’s running: Career pols, business leaders, ex-POWs, lawyers, schoolteachers, ice cream makers. Millionaires, multimillionaires, megamillionaires. In all, seven Democrats and eight Republicans. Some $29 million later, the most unknown name in the field has become the most familiar—and golly, wasn’t it inspiring to see how swiftly in a democracy a vast personal fortune can level the playing field?
The stakes couldn’t be higher. If the Republican Party slips two seats in November it loses control of the Senate—actually, the Democrats need just one more seat if they win the race for president. We just wish the election weren’t next week. Because of the presidential primaries, Illinois has barely begun to pay proper attention to the cast of characters who want Fitzgerald’s job. They’re such an interesting bunch we should keep them around all summer.
GERY CHICO (D)
Lives in: University Village
Education: University of Illinois at Chicago, Loyola University Law School
Military service: None
Ethnicity: Father’s Mexican; mother’s Greek and Lithuanian. He’d be the first Latino senator in almost 30 years.
Hobbies: Movie buff
Resumé at a glance: Real estate lawyer with Arnstein & Lehr, a downtown firm. Previously a high-ranking partner at Altheimer & Gray, an international law firm that collapsed in 2003. President of Chicago Board of Education, 1995-2001.
Why he says he’s running: “I have good experience overseeing large government,” in particular the public school system. Takes credit for “restoring fiscal discipline, raising test scores, rebuilding crumbling schools, and developing after-school programs.”
Skeptics say: Monster ego.
Political connections: Lots. Started as an aide to former alderman and south-side powerhouse Wilson Frost, 1980 to 1987. Then former Daley administration insider David Mosena, now head of the Museum of Science and Industry, hired Chico to work in the mayor’s office. Daley promoted Chico to chief of staff in 1992, then picked him as school board president. Of course the mayor later nudged him out, so maybe that’s a wash.
Endorsements: Former schools CEO Paul Vallas; state rep Susana Mendoza; Cook County commissioner Joseph Moreno; aldermen Ed Burke, Ricardo Munoz, and Berny Stone.
Biggest donors: Multimillionaire developer Neil Bluhm and his three kids (a total of $41,000 by the end of last year), personal injury lawyer Phil Corboy Sr. ($14,000), library commissioner Mary Dempsey ($14,000).
Strengths: His political connections. Also, deep ties to gay community: He helped institute domestic partnership benefits for gay city employees. Only candidate who supports same-sex marriages, not just civil unions.
Confessed liability: “I always try to do too much.”
Other liabilities: Says he’s great at managing budgets, but his old law firm, Altheimer & Gray, racked up an estimated $25 million in debt before it went out of business. Says he tried everything he could to save the firm, including taking a $500,000 pay cut, but former partners have publicly accused him of greed and mismanagement.
Dream bill: “Teachers Initiative Bill, which would pay for college for people who agree to teach in the public schools for five years or longer.”
What did you have to give up when you took that $500,000 pay cut? No comment—he doesn’t discuss personal finances.
But isn’t saying you took a $500,000 pay cut discussing your personal finances? No comment—he doesn’t discuss personal finances.
Bottom line: Poor name recognition outside Chicago and not quite enough money.
BLAIR HULL (D)
Lives in: Old Town
Education: University of California, Santa Barbara; MBA from Santa Clara University
Military service: Army first lieutenant, stationed in Fort Bliss, Texas, 1965-’67.
Ethnicity: English, Irish, Scottish, “and there may be a few other things”
Hobbies: Ran the Chicago Marathon last year, likes to read history books
Resumé at a glance: CEO of Matlock Capital, a financial services firm. Started a stock brokerage, Hull Trading Company, with $25,000 he won counting cards at blackjack; sold it to Goldman Sachs in 1999 for $531 million.
Why he says he’s running: “I’m disgusted that politicians are more concerned about getting elected than about getting anything done. I’m disgusted at how much influence the special interests have in the process—the pharmaceutical companies really wrote the Medicare bill—and I feel that I could make a difference.”
Skeptics say: Must be bored with making money.
Political connections: He says he “spent some time with” the late senator Paul Simon before deciding to run (though Simon did not endorse him or any other candidate before he died in December). Contributed nearly $260,000 to Rod Blagojevich’s gubernatorial campaign. Recommended his second ex-wife, Brenda Sexton, as director of the Illinois Film Office; Blagojevich gave her the job. Endorsements: U.S. congressmen Luis Gutierrez and Bobby Rush, former congressman Cardiss Collins, powerful 33rd Ward alderman (and Blago’s father-in-law) Richard Mell.
Biggest donors: Himself, and that’s how he wants it. Has put in almost $29 million so far and promises up to $40 million total. Won’t take money from lobbyists or political action committees and is limiting individual gifts to $100.
Confessed liability: “I don’t have any experience speaking to the public. I’m not the most eloquent speaker. But I’m getting better every day.”
Other liabilities: Didn’t register to vote between 1965 and 1995, and only voted in 6 of last 12 elections. And then there’s Brenda Sexton. Voters who think U.S. senators should learn from their mistakes will wonder why Hull married her twice. The unsealed records from their second divorce are bad enough: she claims he called her a “bitch” and a “cunt,” threatened to kill her, and punched her in the shin. She phoned the cops, but told them she’d kicked him first. But if Hull survives this embarrassment there’s worse to come. Unlike Hull’s Democratic opponents, who’ll hesitate to implicate Blagojevich in any funny business, Republicans will happily ask whether Hull was trying to buy Sexton’s silence.
Dream bill: “I would repeal the current Medicare bill.”
Do you have a public library card? “No, I do not.”
Why not? “I don’t have any time to go to the library. . . . I go to the Internet. And I buy a lot of books, probably 70 a year. And I give away that many to Goodwill and other charitable locations.”
Bottom line: His voting record and messy personal affairs will dog him. If he was in fact trying to buy off his ex, it didn’t work.
DAN HYNES (D)
Lives in: North Center
Education: Notre Dame, Loyola Law School
Military service: None
Ethnicity: Irish “with a smidge of German.”
Hobbies: Golf; watching baseball and Notre Dame football
Resumé at a glance: Illinois comptroller: elected 1998, reelected 2002. Attorney with Hogan Marren specializing in health care law, 1993-’98.
Why he says he’s running: “The president is out of touch.”
Skeptics say: Bred to run whether he wants to or not.
Political connections: His father, 19th Ward committeeman, former state senate president, and former Cook County assessor Tom Hynes, is one of the most powerful Democrats in Chicago and a member of the Democratic National Committee. Dan’s little brother, Matt, ran Al Gore’s campaign in Illinois and now runs Dan’s.
Endorsements: His dad Tom, Cook County board president John Stroger, Cook County commissioner John Daley (the mayor’s brother), Illinois house speaker Michael Madigan, AFL-CIO.
Biggest donors: Members of his family, with more than $140,000 total. Also: employees of a Naperville firm, Apex HealthCare, with at least $57,000. A complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission alleges that Apex owner James Chao used employees to improperly funnel money to Hynes’s campaign; Hynes spokeswoman Chris Mather has accused northwest-side retiree Gerald Jaecks, the self-described concerned voter who filed it, of working for Blair Hull (which Jaecks and Hull’s campaign deny). She also thinks Hull’s people leaked the complaint, which should have been confidential until resolved.
Strengths: Family connections. Regarded as an able administrator who works well with others, including Republicans.
Confessed liability: None
Other liabilities: Family connections. Even the appearance of nepotism may turn off reform-minded voters. Plus: Tom Hynes ran for mayor in 1987 as a third-party candidate. Black voters (and progressives of all stripes) over 35 will never forget that he broke from the Democrats rather than support Harold Washington.
Dream bill: Institute a job plan in which “for every dollar spent in Iraq, a dollar is spent in the U.S.” Overhaul manufacturing policy, push for a “made-in-America tax credit,” and spend more money on infrastructure.
Cubs or Sox? “Sox.”
Bottom line: As one Republican operative put it, “he’s running quite a Rose Garden strategy,” though to do that you need a Rose Garden. Or a political machine.
BARACK OBAMA (D)
Lives in: Hyde Park
Education: Columbia University; Harvard Law School, where he was the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review.
Military service: None
Religion: United Church of Christ
Ethnicity: “My father was from Kenya, which is where I got my name, and my mother is from Kansas, which is where I got my accent.” (Doesn’t really have a Kansas accent.) Wrote a book, Dreams From My Father, about his search for his African roots. If elected, he’ll be the only African-American in the Senate and the first black male Democrat in the history of the chamber.
Hobbies: Runs, lifts weights, reads
Resumé at a glance: State senator since 1997, representing a long, skinny lakefront district that runs from Goethe south to 99th Street. Attorney with liberal-leaning law firm Miner, Barnhill & Galland, specializing in voting rights and employment discrimination. Constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago. Previously a community organizer; oversaw 1991 voter registration drive that added 150,000 people to the rolls.
Why he says he’s running: “I think the values that led me into public service are under assault. We get a sense, here in Illinois, that politics operates as a business. In Washington, that power trumps principle. There is another tradition of politics that says we are all connected. If there is a child on the south side who cannot read, it makes a difference in my life even if it’s not my child. If there’s an Arab-American family who’s being rounded up by John Ashcroft without benefit of due process, that threatens my civil liberties. Black folks, white folks, gay, straight, Asian—the reason we can share this space is that we have a mutual regard. That’s what this country’s about: e pluribus unum, out of many, one.”
Skeptics say: Young man in a hurry; loves to hear himself talk.
Political connections: Comes from liberal-independent wing of local Democrats. Big allies include former congressman Abner Mikva and former corporate counsel under Harold Washington, Judson Miner.
Endorsements: U.S. representatives Danny Davis, Lane Evans, Jesse Jackson Jr., and Jan Schakowsky; state senator Miguel del Valle; Illinois Planned Parenthood; Tribune and Sun-Times; IVI-IPO.
Biggest donors: Fay Hartog-Levin, a veep at the Field Museum, with $14,000. Homemaker Barbara Franks and Cynthia Wheeler, wife of Chicago Stock Exchange vice chair and Obama finance chief Andrew Davis, both with $12,000. Then Michael Jordan with $10,000. Has more out-of-state donations than any other candidate.
Strengths: Tall, smart, articulate, and deep-voiced—looks and sounds like a senator.
Confessed liability: Alienated many south-side voters when he challenged Congressman Bobby Rush in 2000. “I got a good spanking.”
Other liabilities: Mentions Harvard a lot. African name (Barack means “loved by God” in Swahili) may not play well with white voters, particularly downstate. A Republican activist from Indiana put up a website mocking the candidate as “Barack Osama,” complete with a doctored photo of Obama in a turban.
Dream bill: Expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover all uninsured children. “I think it’s a good opportunity to lay the groundwork toward expanding health insurance to all the uninsured.”
Who did you support for president? Carol Moseley Braun. “Her people asked me if I would be a delegate. I said that I would, given that she’s a constituent. But I think Howard Dean did the party and John Kerry a favor by running the kind of race that he did. He gave the Democratic Party a shot in the arm and shook it out of this timidity the party suffered from.”
Bottom line: Obama’s topped the polls since Blair Hull stumbled over domestic violence allegations. If he can stop Dan Hynes downstate (where one poll had him just 2 percent behind Obama) he’ll probably win.
MARIA PAPPAS (D)
Lives in: Water Tower Place
Education: West Liberty State College, master’s from West Virginia University, doctorate in counseling and psychology from Loyola University, Chicago-Kent College of Law. Certificate from the International Graphoanalysis Society. (She interned with a law professor who was defending Pontiac prison rioters and got interested in handwriting analysis as a jury selection technique.)
Military service: None
Religion: Greek Orthodox
Ethnicity: “All four of my grandparents are from the island of Crete.”
Hobbies: Piano, baton twirling, entering athletic charity events
Resumé at a glance: Cook County treasurer since 1998, Cook County commissioner 1990-’98.
Why she says she’s running: “In eight years on the County Board I developed extraordinary legislative experience—I got all these ordinances passed. Then I took over a corrupt treasurer’s office, which manages billions of dollars in collections, and cleaned it up. My government experience constitutes being a huge budget hawk. I understand budgeting and government monies like no one else in this race. I understand the waste, the special interests, the lobbyists, and the corporations who are pocketing a whole lot of money.”
Skeptics say: Running because it dawned on her that, as the most prominent woman in a crowded field, she might win.
Political connections: Insists she’s never had any political sponsors.
Endorsements: Washington, D.C.-based Women’s Campaign Fund and the pro-choice Personal PAC, but no officeholder of prominence. “All the endorsements had happened when I got into the race in November,” she says. “They were all gone.”
Biggest donors: Herself, with $117,000. But “I’ve gotten several $10,000 checks,” she says. “I got four of them yesterday from someone in Pittsburgh I’ve known since I was a kid. It wasn’t him only—it was family members too.”
Strengths: She’ll campaign anywhere: restaurants, bowling alleys, Mardi Gras parties, churches. “My entire campaign is one person at a time.” Name recognition in Chicago, especially in the Greek community.
Confessed liability: “I analyze situations different from other politicians.”
Other liabilities: Windy, weird. Or “eccentric,” as they say when you’re rich.
Dream bill: “One that would fully fund early education programs, including preschool and Head Start. I would do anything to assist mothers and fathers of children zero to six years old.”
What did you think of My Big Fat Greek Wedding? “It was sad, really. Remember the ending? Here is this non-Greek guy who is in love with his wife, and she’s in love with him. She is standing with their daughter, and she wants to make sure the little girl learns Greek. She wants to pass her language on to the child, but he isn’t part of the conversation. The dad is being left out. That happens with lots of ethnic groups today.”
And by the way: “I would like to know why you want to know about a movie in the middle of a Senate race.”
Because it gives insight into you as a person? “That movie gives no insight into me as a person. What does is that as a child I used to play organ and direct a choir in church. That I am climbing to the top of the Hancock for the American Lung Association. That I rode a bike with victims who managed to escape 9/11 and with firefighters from New York to Washington. That’s how you can tell who someone is, not because they went and sat through a movie and had a reaction to it.”
Bottom line: Entered too late; running statewide without statewide organization.
NANCY SKINNER (D)
Lives in: Lakeview
Education: University of Michigan
Military service: None
Ethnicity: Irish, English, Bulgarian
Resumé at a glance: Cohosts Good Day, a liberal talk show on 425 radio stations nationwide. Regular token liberal on CNN and Fox. Cofounded the Chicago Climate Exchange, an emissions trading program, after her sister-in-law died of skin cancer. Cohosted Ski and Skinner, a Sunday afternoon call-in show on WLS, 1998-2003; hired after sending the operations manager a fish tank, in the shell of an old radio, stocked with many white fish and a single red one. Note said: “Just a lonely liberal swimming in a sea of conservatives. Talk to me. If you don’t call, these fish will perish.” Fired in July, after announcing her candidacy on air.
Why she says she’s running: Democrats have allowed Republicans to control the national debate, but can wrest it back by being more outspoken. “I’m not doing this just because I want to be a U.S. senator. The Democrats have not realized how important media and message are. By wide margins, the public agrees with Democrats on health care, the environment, taxes. So why don’t we have any electoral power?”
Skeptics say: Disc jockey stunt.
Political connections: None
Endorsements: None to speak of
Biggest donors: Has raised about $120,000, less than any other Democrat. Doug Stephan, her cohost, gave $12,000.
Confessed liability: Can’t get enough free media coverage because she polls too low; polls too low because she can’t get enough media coverage. Ditto for money.
Other liabilities: Gimmicks like her Valentine’s Day come-on, “SSC (Single Senatorial Candidate) seeks DWM (Democrat With Money),” make her hard to take seriously; pink suits are for weatherwomen.
Dream bill: “The McCain-Skinner Media Reform Act,” which would reverse FCC rules allowing media consolidation, predicate media licenses on “diversity of political opinion,” and ban the “vertical integration of media” that she says have let the Big Five control most American news outlets.
Any conservative talk show hosts you respect? “Sean Hannity and I are really good friends. We’ve been known to share a cocktail with each other. He’ll enjoy a cigar. I think that’s part of the macho conservative act. We liberals chew celery.”
Bottom line: Good career move. Ski and Skinner was only on for three hours on Sunday afternoons. Even though she’s fighting for coverage, she’s still getting more attention now.
Lives in: New East Side
Education: BS in nursing, University of Evansville; master’s in public administration, Indiana State University
Military service: None
Hobbies: Skiing, biking, golfing, watching football
Resumé at a glance: President and CEO, the Washington Group, a health care consulting firm. Previously vice president, Advocate Healthcare; vice president and COO, Michael Reese Hospital. Lost 2002 lieutenant gubernatorial primary.
Why she says she’s running: “There were no health care voices setting public policy. Health care is 14 percent of our economy. We need voices to really understand something that’s that complex. I’m running now because it is a crisis. People need help and relief right now.”
Skeptics say: According to a popular theory articulated by late Sun-Times political columnist Steve Neal, she’s Bobby Rush’s stalking horse. Neal wrote that the congressman encouraged her to run so she’d divert black votes from Obama and help Dan Hynes, whose father supported Rush in ’92. Rush (who’s actually backing Blair Hull) and Washington both deny it. “This is a race between seven people,” says Washington. “I want to take votes from everybody.”
Political connections: On Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, cochaired health care transition team for Governor Rod Blagojevich
Endorsements: Women’s Campaign Fund, League of Black Independent Voters
Biggest donors: Herself, with more than $500,000
Strengths: Expertise in the hot issue of health care, strong interpersonal skills, long record of volunteer service
Confessed liability: “We have enough dollars to compete, but it’s a challenge to raise money.”
Other liabilities: No backing from party regulars. Her one big issue is on everyone else’s list too.
Dream bill: “If you don’t have health, what do you have? Forty-three million Americans have absolutely no health insurance. I’d do something about that.”
If you were a football player, what position would you play? “Let me give you the order. First the owner, then the coach, then the quarterback. Everybody has something they’re called to do. I think I was called to lead.”
Bottom line: Limited support and a small war chest make her a very long shot.
JOHN BORLING (R)
Lives in: Rockford
Education: U.S. Air Force Academy
Military Service: Air force, 1963-’96. Purple Heart, among other decorations. Retired as major general.
Ethnicity: Swedish, Irish, German, Norwegian
Hobbies: Flies own campaign plane, once aspired to be a jazz pianist, has run with the bulls in Pamplona.
Resumé at a glance: Chairman of Performance Consulting Group, which instructs businesses in energy conservation, since 2000.
Why he says he’s running: “Every nation faces the gallows of history. Each generation has an enduring commitment to keep us in the game, in terms of the economy, in terms of physical things, spiritual things. We are always in danger of spending or taxing ourselves into decline.”
Skeptics say: He’s a RINO (Republican in Name Only).
Political connections: Ross Perot contributed $2,000.
Endorsements: U.S. Senator John McCain
Biggest donors: Himself, with more than $120,000. After that, several of his Air Force Academy classmates at $4,000 apiece.
Strengths: Has lived in 25 countries. Headed operations for the Strategic Air Command, 1988-’92, and was NATO chief of staff for northern Europe, 1993-’96. Spent six years in the same POW camp as McCain.
Confessed liability: “We’re competing against a gaggle of millionaires,” says spokesman Dave Zapata, “but in the last few weeks we’ve been able to purchase some airtime, and I think we’re competitive.”
Other liabilities: Declared himself a Republican just three months before Senate run. Pro-choice, and conservative Republican primary voters don’t like pro-choice candidates. Holds a grudge: he declined an invitation to an awards luncheon from Personal PAC (an abortion-rights group) because they planned to honor “Hanoi” Jane Fonda.
Dream bill: Would make a year of military service mandatory for 18- to 26-year-old males to supply the overextended armed forces and provide a life-enriching experience for young people.
Should bullfighting be legal in the United States? “That’s a weak question, so I’m going to give you a weak answer. It’s not part of our culture.”
Bottom line: Gung-ho attitude scares moderates; moderate politics scare conservatives.
NORM HILL (R)
Lives in: Grayslake
Education: Woodland High School, Woodland, Mississippi. “I started up here once at DePaul, but I never got organized and followed it through.”
Military service: Twenty-three years in the army (Germany, Korea, Vietnam twice), two Purple Hearts. Retired as chief warrant officer in 1970.
Religion: Born-again Christian
Ethnicity: American Indian, English, Irish
Hobbies: Horseback riding. “I hold a few ribbons for riding western style.”
Resumé at a glance: Insurance and securities broker
Why he says he’s running: None of the other candidates “could deliver what the people want out here—somebody to take care of the veterans and to fix Medicare.”
Skeptics say: Who?
Political connections: “I’ve heard of him,” says Republican activist Chris Robling.
Biggest donors: Himself, with $6,850.
Strengths: Says he, “I’m a fighter. The things that I believe in, I don’t waver from.”
Confessed liability: “I don’t have the money like those other people.”
Other liabilities: Very, very low visibility.
Dream bill: “Make sure veterans’ health benefits are restored to what veterans have been promised.”
Who’s given you money? “I don’t have any donors. I haven’t had a fund-raiser!” His petition to run was challenged all the way to appellate court by someone named Jack Robles who’d voted in the last four Democratic primaries. (Hill thinks John Borling was behind it, a theory also put forth in the Illinois Leader, but Borling spokesman Dave Zapata says that was a leap based on bad information.) “If I wasn’t on the ballot,” says Hill, “I couldn’t very well ask people to support me.”
Bottom line: One-horse candidate with no chance.
Lives In: Oak Brook
Education: BS and MD from Brown, MBA from Stanford; valedictorian, Downers Grove North High School class of ’83
Military Service: None
Hobbies: Watching old musicals (including The Sound of Music and South Pacific), travel, reading about history, studying astrophysics with a view to making space travel accessible to more people, tennis, “looking for a wife”
Resumé at a glance: Describes his day job as “sitting on boards of companies I’ve founded,” including Virginia-based Medical Oasis, which is working to build a chain of diagnostic imaging centers, and Vimani Wireless, a WiFi and wireless networks provider. Helped set up Morgan Stanley investment banking office in India. Most famously helped start MirCorp, a joint venture with the Russian space engineering firm Energia that in 2000 launched the first privately funded manned space mission. On October 12 a long front-page article in the Tribune accused him of massively padding his resumé; he responded with a multimillion-dollar defamation lawsuit.
Why he says he’s running: Considers himself a “classic American success story” and wants to give back. Believes he’s the only Republican candidate who can attract minorities, young people, and independents.
Skeptics say: “I haven’t heard of any hidden agenda,” says one Republican insider. “The idea that a Sikh with no background in politics could get on the Republican ticket in Illinois and prevail is so preposterous on its face that there must be something genuine about it.”
Political connections: Met state party chair Judy Baar Topinka through a friend; she invited him to participate in the annual Chicago Conservative Conference.
Biggest donors: Himself, with more than $680,000 (out of a total kitty of about $780,000).
Strengths: The only minority in the Republican race, experience in global business and high technology. Answers his own phone.
Confessed liability: “Beard and turban.” Says his campaign headquarters has been inundated with hate letters. One likened his turban to a diaper; another wondered why President Bush couldn’t find Osama bin Laden when he was running for senator in Illinois.
Other liabilities: Besides the resumé thing, political inexperience. In preparation for a debate, he says, he “pretended it was medical school” and stayed up all night cramming on conservatism. Campaign manager Jon Zahm resigned in January and is volunteering for Steve Rauschenberger.
Dream bill: Would make health insurance affordable by allowing small businesses and individuals to deduct its cost; vouchers, tax credits, or cash awards for preventive care for the uninsured.
What publications do you subscribe to? Tribune, Fortune, Business 2.0, Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Vogue. But the last two are for his mom—as is common in Sikh culture, he lives with his parents.
Bottom line: More likely to go to Mars.
ANDY MCKENNA JR. (R)
Lives in: Glenview
Education: Notre Dame; master’s from Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management
Military service: None
Religion: Catholic; worships daily “when possible.”
Hobbies: No answer, but told the Sun-Times he likes “all the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.”
Resumé at a glance: President of Schwarz Paper Company.
Why he says he’s running: To encourage job creation in Illinois.
Skeptics say: More ties to big business and the political establishment than a marionette, and tapped by them early.
Political connections: Widely considered to be the candidate of the “Illinois combine,” the entrenched informal network of movers and shakers who care less about party affiliation than deal making.
Endorsements: Downstate U.S. representative Ray LaHood, Illinois Federation for Right to Life.
Biggest donors: Himself, with $1,245,000 of his own money in just the past couple months, despite saying in a WBEZ interview that he doesn’t believe in self-funded campaigns. That’s almost 40 percent of his total.
Strengths: Potential appeal to both fiscal and social conservatives; finance committee packed with high-profile rainmakers, including Gregory Baise, president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association; Patrick Ryan Sr., chairman and CEO of Aon Corporation; former Illinois attorney general Tyrone Fahner; and Samuel Skinner. Speaking of friends, his dad has a lot: Andrew J. McKenna, owner and CEO of Schwarz, sits on Aon’s board, has sat on the boards of both the Cubs and the Sox, and chaired the board of trustees at Notre Dame.
Confessed liability: “As an outsider running for office, I need to build name identity and introduce myself to the entire state.”
Other liabilities: Movement conservatives tend to view him as the kind of well-connected player they want to purge.
Dream bill: “A jobs tax credit for small companies when they invest in technology and increase new jobs.”
Why don’t you believe in self-funded campaigns? “Although I will make a significant personal investment in my campaign, I believe team building is an important part of the political process. Any campaign is strengthened when supporters come forward and express their commitment with a financial contribution.”
Bottom line: Connections can’t turn vanilla pudding into Jack Ryan.
JIM OBERWEIS (R)
Lives in: Kane County just outside Aurora
Education: Marmion Military Academy, University of Illinois; MBA, University of Chicago
Military service: “I flunked the army physical in 1968.”
Ethnicity: Luxembourg German, German, English, Irish
Hobbies: Golf, chess
Resumé at a glance: Chairman of Oberweis Asset Management; chairman of Oberweis Dairy. Taught junior high, 1968-’69.
Why he says he’s running: “Seeing the government waste and the crazy government programs, the spending that we have, that I believe that I could do a very significant job in helping to reduce and clean up.”
Skeptics say: Still hungry after defeat in 2002 Republican Senate primary.
Political connections: “When I ran two years ago, [U.S. House Speaker] Denny Hastert encouraged me to get involved. I talked to Peter Fitzgerald, and he encouraged me too.”
Endorsements: “Most of the party leadership is staying out of this race,” he says. Hastert, who endorsed him in 2002, expressly declined to this time around.
Biggest donors: Himself, at more than $1.8 million.
Strengths: Name recognition from dairy advertising; came in second in 2002.
Confessed liability: “I love to eat ice cream.”
Other liabilities: Looks like a zealot on the matter of illegal immigration. His numbers are in dispute—he claims more than three million people violate the nation’s borders each year, citing a study he says was commissioned by the INS, but the INS itself estimates the number at about 350,000. Worse, he’s running against Republican numero uno—Dubya—on the issue.
Dream bill: “The spending bill for 2005—I would work very hard to eliminate some of the pork that we’ve allowed to creep in.”
What do you think of Ben and Jerry? “They are certainly left-wing, way-out kind of guys. Their product is good, but not as good as ours. But their marketing is much better than ours.”
Bottom line: His anti-illegal-immigrant stance should alienate Latinos, moderates, and Bush loyalists. But he was still running second in the polls at press time, so either those folks don’t vote in Republican primaries or they really like ice cream.
STEVE RAUSCHENBERGER (R)
Lives in: Elgin
Education: College of William and Mary
Military service: None
Hobbies: Avid cyclist—wants to ride the length of the state, from Galena to Metropolis, if he wins the nomination. Owns a large collection of cardigan sweaters.
Resumé at a glance: Former furniture store owner. State senator since 1993 representing northwest suburbs; assistant minority leader, chaired the appropriations committee when Republicans controlled the senate.
Why he says he’s running: “After the George Ryan debacle, when the Republican Party has a fundamental problem with trust, we’re better served by a candidate that’s taken 5,000 roll call votes.” Got into politics in 1991 when the state legislature moved sales tax reporting dates so it could “balance” the budget by counting 13 months’ tax receipts in one fiscal year. “I thought it was budgeting done by tricks and mirrors.”
Skeptics say: Established party member when Republicans may be looking for an “outsider.”
Political connections: Colleagues in the state senate encouraged him to run. Popular among “Freepers,” conservative activists posting on FreeRepublic.com.
Endorsements: Tribune, Daily Herald, Sun-Times columnist Thomas Roeser, 21 of 25 Republican state senators, U.S. representative Henry Hyde, the conservative webpaper Illinois Leader.
Biggest donors: Himself, with more than $14,000. After that, nine Rauschenbergers with a total of $13,000 and half a dozen legislative colleagues with a total of $8,000. He had less than $100,000 left in the coffers with two weeks to go.
Strengths: “I’m the only person on the Republican side who has won an election. We have four millionaires in the race who think that the place to start is the most complicated legislative body in America. Paul Simon, Denny Hastert, they served in the state legislature first. That’s how you find out you have the personality to do this.”
Confessed liability: “I’m not a millionaire.”
Other liabilities: Arrested for drunk driving ten years ago; 2002 state senate opponent accused him of “voting to protect fellow drunk drivers” because he was the sole dissenter on a bill to increase DUI fines. Rauschenberger says he opposed it because the money would have funded hospital trauma centers and a fine shouldn’t be a funding source.
Dream bill: Shift Medicare and Medicaid payments from procedures to institutions—in other words, give a lump sum to hospitals, then pay them $25 for each patient treated. As things stand now, “they won’t give an MRI until they’re authorized. We’ll pay them to run an MRI machine, then give them a bonus every time they use it.”
Just how many cardigan sweaters do you own? “It’s a closely guarded secret,” says spokesman Charlie Stone. “Those records are sealed.”
Bottom line: The most qualified candidate in the field, but Republicans seem to be looking past this workmanlike legislator for someone with more star power.
JACK RYAN (R)
Lives in: Wilmette
Education: Dartmouth; Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School simultaneously
Military service: None
Hobbies: Jogging, lifting weights
Resumé at a glance: Left partnership at Goldman Sachs in 2000 to teach at Hales Franciscan, a black Catholic boys’ high school in Bronzeville. Says teaching for $20,000 a year (and donating four times that back to the school) fits into his family’s tradition of service.
Why he says he’s running: “The three themes are: keep the country safe, more jobs and higher paying jobs always happen when you tax less and spend less, and give everybody an equal chance to compete for those jobs. And we can create more jobs, by the way, with a well-educated workforce.”
Skeptics say: “Whatever pretension Ryan has towards winning some of the black vote,” writes Rasmin Canon on the local blog Gaper’s Block, “the whole ‘tough inner city educator’ thing is mostly for the benefit of middle class whites in the collar counties.”
Political connections: Precinct captain in New Trier Township, member of state Republican Party finance committee
Endorsements: Former HUD secretary Jack Kemp, former education secretary William Bennett, 11 county Republican chairmen, Sun-Times
Biggest donors: Himself, with more than $3 million
Strengths: North Shore base, personal fortune, looks good on TV
Confessed liability: “Tough to see,” says a spokesman. “Jack really feels our campaign is the best chance for the Republican Party to retain the seat.”
Other liabilities: Has never held office. Anti-abortion stance and support for school vouchers could make him easy prey for the Democrats in the fall. Sealed records pertaining to his divorce from TV actress Jeri Ryan (Borg chick on Star Trek: Voyager, hot teacher on Boston Public) have given opponents something to pressure him on in the wake of the Blair Hull brouhaha, but so far he’s sustained his lead in the polls.
Dream bill: Would push for a national initiative modeled after the $14 million D.C. school-voucher pilot program signed into law by President Bush in January. “Let’s fully fund a child’s education. Let them go to the school of their choice. I call them scholarships. Because that’s what they call them at the college level, right?”
Were you a brainy basketball player at New Trier High School? “Totally that. No spontaneity. No adaptation.”
Bottom line: He’s loaded, he’s handsome, and he acts like a saint, and there’s no incumbent or big name in sight.
JONATHAN WRIGHT (R)
Lives in: Lincoln
Education: Monmouth College, Chicago-Kent College of Law
Military service: None
Ethnicity: White Anglo-Saxon
Resumé at a glance: Assistant state’s attorney for Logan County. Practiced law in Pekin and Lincoln, was appointed state representative to fill a vacant seat in June 2001. Didn’t run for reelection due to redistricting.
Why he says he’s running: Disillusioned by lack of passion in nominally anti-abortion colleagues in the Illinois statehouse; wanted to offer conservatives an ideologically honest candidate not beholden to contributors or realpolitik.
Skeptics say: He’s building name recognition for a future run.
Political connections: Few
Endorsements: State representative Art Tenhouse of Quincy, state representative Bill Mitchell of Forsyth, the suburban-based group TAPROOT (Traditions and Principles Republicans Often Overlook Today)
Biggest donors: Campaign manager says they’ve raised about $46,000 total, almost all in small contributions. Pastor of Wright’s church gave $2,000; the candidate himself has put in about $500 plus travel expenses.
Strengths: Ideological purity
Confessed liability: “I’m sure I probably have one somewhere. I’ve not seen it or noticed it.”
Other liabilities: Ideological purity
Dream bill: Constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion under all circumstances.
Ever have a nickname? “Spider-Man,” given by his eighth-grade basketball coach “because I was all arms and legs.”
Bottom line: Pure and unelectable conservative with the quiet, menacing certitude of Ralph Reed. v
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustrations/Tom Chalkley.