May 05, 2004

DCCC Blog Tour: ArchPundit

Today’s BlogTour Guest Post is from ArchPundit, who is pretty much the authority on stuff in Illinois and Missouri (he also runs Blog St. Louis). We really appreciate his taking the time for us, as he has had a crazy week or two… Anyway, we are trying to feature a different Guest Blogger at least once a week here at the Stakeholder - next up (I think) is Matt Stoller from BOPNews. Without further ado…


Illinois politics is both rough and tumble at the same time as incredibly cozy. The 2000 Redistricting resulted in 10 Republican and 9 Democrats in Congress despite the state becoming more and more Democratic. The map was designed mostly to protect incumbents, but despite this engineering, Melissa Bean has mounted a very credible challenge to long time incumbent Phil Crane (R-Out of Touch) in 2002 garnering almost 43% of the vote against a 33 year incumbent. She is
mounting an even stronger challenge this cycle.

Bean is impressive, but half of the story is a stagnant Congressman who long ago wore out his welcome. Crane went to Congress in 1969 replacing…Don Rumsfeld. Beyond that Crane has long been an ultra-conservative in a district that is increasingly becoming moderate. In 1988, Bush I got 70% of the vote, but in 2000, Bush II got 56% percent of the vote and Crane runs well to the right of both Bushes.  His American Conservative Union score over his lifetime is 99 out of 100.

Crane is the senior Republican on Ways and Means, but fails to even deliver basic transportation projects to his district despite its location adjacent to Denny Hastert’s district. Crane has long been a long-winded conservative ideologue who has ignored the interest of his district for arcane arguments that he was never able to implement. When he was up for Chairman of Ways and Means he was passed over instead for Bill Thomas because those who know him best apparently did not think much of his seniority.

Much of the reason for Bean’s success is a growing sense that Crane is simply too out of touch with his rapidly growing district. Crane not only is facing a credible general election challenge from Bean, but faced a more moderate Republican in the primary and for a long time incumbent did poorly with primary opponent garnering nearly 30% of the Republican primary vote. Bean offers a sharp contrast to Crane in youth and energy as well as a fresh outlook.

Bean is running as a practical fiscal conservative/social moderate in a district that is increasingly competitive. And she has been very successful in raising money. In the 2002 race she raised $300,000 and she is already well ahead of that pace for this cycle. She has half of the cash on-hand that Crane has and at this point in the cycle, that means she has everything she needs to compete. On top of that Crane’s fundraising has been very lethargic for an incumbent on Ways and Means. Most of his fundraising is coming from PACs offering Bean another issue on which to contrast herself with him since 2/3 of her donations come from individuals.

Several other challengers are running spirited campaigns this cycle. One in particular is Tari Renner, a political science professor at Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington, Illinois. Renner is taking on Jerry Weller (R-Vanity) in a district specifically designed to protect Weller and Tim Johnson (R-the other Tim Johnson). The 11th CD was brought down to McLean County dividing Bloomington-Normal in half for the first time since at least before Everett Dirksen served in Congress. When commenting on the redistricting, Weller’s biggest concern was that the district would go far enough south so his parents could vote for him. The same process also redistricted one of the strongest 2000 Democratic challengers, Mike Kelleher into his district by a matter of yards. Kelleher said of the new map, “If I go to the end of my driveway, I can through a baseball into the 15th district.” Kelleher was moved into the district to protect Tim Johnson.

Renner has run a credible campaign, but he is used to fighting uphill battles. In McLean County he beat out former Illinois Christian Coalition Director Lee Newcom (R-Wingnut) for a spot on the heavily Republican McLean County Board. So far this cycle he has raised over $120,000 and in a relatively inexpensive media market that can go a long way. While Weller is considered a favorite, on several issues including an airport in Will County he is vulnerable as Daily Southtown columnist Phil Kadner recently pointed out. Weller is no profile in courage. 

ArchPundit


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