It would appear that after four campaigns costing the Chicago-area investment manager turned dairy owner and ice cream parlor entrepreneur more than $10 million of his own money, James Oberweis will finally get a political office to call his own.
MY GUT FEELING says that Illinois’ 14th congressional district is so in-bred Republican (particularly in the rural parts that comprise its far west end) that Oberweis will win Saturday’s special election to complete the remainder of the term to which retiring Rep. J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., (formerly U.S. House speaker) was elected in 2006.
However, that term only runs through the rest of this year. All Oberweis is going to get is the right to be in the minority party of Congress at a time when the mood of the country as a whole is swinging against them.
So it shouldn’t be considered a major victory for Oberweis (or a defeat for Democratic party challenger Bill Foster) as much as just another step in their desire to have real political influence.
James Oberweis wants to think his door-to-door campaigning across the Illinois 14th congressional district put him in a position to win Saturday's special election. His personal wealth used to build name recognition and demonize his Dem opponent in a short-election cycle were more significant factors. Photograph provided by Oberweis for Congress.
No matter what happens Saturday, Foster and Oberweis remain the Democrat and Republican nominees in the Nov. 4 election to win a two-year term of their own, beginning in January 2009.
SOME POLITICAL OBSERVERS believe Foster has a chance to actually win the seat, saying they think that social and political trends that will favor Democratic candidates across the United States in general will also apply to this district.
They think the lack of Denny Hastert (an extremely popular local figure who was perceived as never having forgotten where he came from, no matter how high up the political ladder he climbed) will cause people to look at the actual personalities on the ballot, rather than focus attention on the political parties to which they are affiliated.
I’m skeptical that will happen for Saturday’s special election, although it could very well happen come November.
Foster could easily lose on Saturday, but then win big in the General Election – thereby getting himself a full two-year term of his own, while Oberweis will merely get to finish off the crumbs left over from Hastert’s term and will gain a “political loser” reputation – as if losses for the U.S. Senate and Illinois governor hadn’t already given him that rep.
IF THERE HAD been more than one month of time passing between when Oberweis and Foster won their nominations and the actual special election, then maybe Foster would have had more of a chance to exploit the “national mood,” so-to-speak.
But the lack of time, combined with the fact that many people who live in that district are Republicans because they perceive the political party as the mechanism that allows them to prevent Democratic Chicago from overwhelming their interests, means many local voters will merely vote for the GOP, just like they always have.
Foster, if he really wants to win, should focus his attention on keeping the momentum of his campaign from being lost. Even with Oberweis spending the spring and summer months in Washington, there won’t be much time for him to accomplish anything of significance. He is not going to be the standard issue incumbent in the November election.
Oberweis could easily get tied into the Republican caucus and be hit with all the mistakes they inevitably will make this year. He could be weakened just enough that Foster could beat up on him for issues we don’t even know about yet.
SO THE POLITICAL junkie in me is focusing my attention on that election, in large part because it is the only one going Saturday in Illinois (Sorry, I just can’t get excited about the Wyoming presidential primary).
It really wouldn’t be much of a loss for Foster not to win on Saturday. Even if I turn out to be wrong and the headline on this commentary makes me look foolish by day’s end, all Foster would really get to be is the member of the majority party with the least amount of seniority.
In one respect, it will be good to see this special election cycle come and go. I am tired of all the nasty broadcast ad campaigning that has been taking place. Both of these candidates are exaggerating their opponents’ resumes in an attempt to unfairly demonize them.
Perhaps it is because neither one of them really has anything worth bragging about. I know for a fact that I would have a hard time choosing whom to vote for, if I lived in that district (ironically enough, my step-brother recently moved into the far east end of the Illinois 14th congressional, but not in time to register to be able to vote Saturday).
OBERWEIS IS GOING to have no problem falling in line with the segment of Congress that is more than willing to pander to social conservative elements that want to blast the immigration issue out of context – twisting it into something that can be used to demonize people so as to get votes.
Oberweis is the candidate who in past bids for the U.S. Senate tried to plant the image in the heads of Illinois voters of massive sports stadiums filled with illegal immigrants. Even in his current campaign for the U.S. House, he has kept up the partisan rhetoric.
I lost count of how many times he tried to imply (both in television campaign ads and during personal appearances) that Foster is a liberal freak who wants to raise peoples’ taxes so that there will be more money to pay for social services for people that Oberweis would prefer to think do not belong in this country at all.
What is sad is that Foster really is a guy who is more than willing to throw his own digs at Oberweis on the immigration issue.
WE GOT TO re-hear the charge from past campaigns that Oberweis hired people without proper immigration papers to work at his ice cream parlors (he actually hired companies to staff one of his parlors, and they hired the people without “green cards.”) We also got to hear that Oberweis agrees with President Bush “on almost everything,” even though the one major area they do disagree on is immigration.
Bush actually had the reasonable approach, while Oberweis wants to play politics with people, particularly those who have come to the United States from various Latin American countries.
Foster doesn’t want to clarify it because it might imply he sides with the people affected by immigration cases – a viewpoint he thinks would cost him votes.
As much as Oberweis’ campaign activity in elections past and present offends me, it is not like there is really anything about Foster that makes him a viable alternative. While the Chicago Sun-Times used that as an excuse to begrudgingly give Oberweis their endorsement, I don’t know if I could have followed suit.
EDITOR’S NOTES: Democrats tried challenging James Oberweis for the large amounts of his own money (http://www.dccc.org/stakeholder/archives/005948.html) that he spent on his campaign against Bill Foster.
For those interested in the investment advice of Oberweis, one should check out (http://www.moneyshow.com/msc/marketresource/speaker.asp?speakerid=577SPK) his newsletter, “The Oberweis Report.” I personally get a kick out of a corporate executive whose business address is on, “Ice Cream Drive.”
Will Oberweis (http://www.jimoberweis.com/) finally win an elective office? Or is he destined for his fourth defeat? We will know by Saturday night.