Rep. Henry Hyde, the 81-year-old hypocrite Republican blowhard who led the House impeachment effort against President Bill Clinton in the 1990's and subsequently faced humiliation and embarrassment when news of his 5-year adulterous affair became public, will be vacating the 6th Congressional District seat he's held for almost 30 years. In the '04 election, his Democratic challenger, Christine Cegelis, commanded 44% of the vote, more than any challenger since his first run for Congress in 1974.
In their effort to hang onto Hyde's seat, the GOP is pushing state Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton), a Tom Delay protege, who'll likely face the winner of the Democratic primary to be held in March. Head-to-head against Roskam, you'd think Cegelis would stand a terrific shot of capturing another 7% and winning the election, right?
Apparently, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (ILL), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, doesn't think so.
Yesterday I wrote about Emanuel, his progress at the DCCC, and his rough and tumble qualities that the party desperately needs right now in battling the Republicans. But today I write about something quite puzzling about Emanuel. Rather than throw his political muscle and DCCC money behind Cegelis -- a 51 year old single mother and businesswoman -- Emanuel is instead recruiting Army Maj. Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth, a Hofffman Estates resident, who lost both her legs in Iraq. She has not yet accepted his invitation to run for Hyde's seat. "She expressed her interest. That's where it is," he said. Duckworth is undergoing physical therapy and faces many medical challenges as a result of her injuries. With no political experience, and having serious health issues, it's a mystery why Duckworth appeals more to Emanuel than the candidate who almost whipped Hyde's philandering ass last year.
One explanation is that Emanuel has not been happy with Cegelis's fundraising efforts. Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, Cegelis raised $159,885 and has $48,973 cash on hand. That's not good enough for Emanuel, so he's begun looking for an alternative. What's troubling is that Emanuel's main function as DCCC head is to raise funds for viable candidates who are struggling financially, and Cegelis is about as viable as they come in the 6th District race. Again, she captured 44% against a 31-year, 16-term Republican legend; in my book that makes her the Democrats' best shot and Emanuel should embrace her with everything he's got.
Emanuel also seems hellbent on recruiting fantasy candidates who fit a certain high profile: military vets, law enforcement, athletes. In doing so, he seems to be chasing what he believes to be a winning Republican strategy. Is he onto something here? Perhaps. But these backgrounds don't in and of themselves make one fit for public service. It's quite possibly style over substance, and that would be a disaster for our side.
Winning Hyde's seat is very much within reach for the Democrats. Roskam, a former legislative assistant to scandal-plagued former House Leader Tom Delay, was himself investigated in 1992 by the Illinois Attorney general and the IRS for possible campaign finance abuses. Like his former boss, he's no pillar of morality. It's shouldn't be too hard to mount an effective campaign against him.
Let's hope that Emanuel, rather than possibly chasing down a fantasy, puts his immense clout and financial support behind candidates who have experience and can win, and not just those who look good in uniform. Until I see otherwise, Christine Cegelis, who's been endorsed by Howard Dean and Sen. Richard Durbin (IL), seems very worthy of that support.
UPDATE -- Michael at SoapBlox Chicago is disgusted:
This is typical. Democrats in the district support Cegelis in her run against Hyde. Rahm and the DCCC look at her bottom line and write her off as a candidate, further undermining her fundraising in the 2006 race. Democrats in the district say Cegelis has invested in a strong volunteer organization and campaign infrastructure for 2006. Beltway folks ignore them, opting instead for a "war hero" candidate with no experience or organization. Locals like what they see, giving in small amounts, leading to over 1,300 contributors - three times Roskam's number - to Cegelis this year. The DCCC doesn't care how many supporters she has, but would rather look tough, playing within the GOP "Democrats are weak" frame, by supporting a candidate who may not even live in the district and seems poised to support, in DLC fashion, the Iraq war - a unpopular position in DuPage county, especially among Democrats and Independents.
Did anyone tell these guys that according to the latest polls Bush is at 31% approve and 67% disapprove in Illinois? Did anyone show these guys the results from the 2005 elections where anyone who supported Bush or his war was voted out of office? Did anyone explain to these guys that being just another pro-war Democrat in DuPage doesn't look tough, just stupid. You know, looking at it this way, I don't think anyone has told Rahm or the DCCC any of this stuff. ***
Maybe you should write him and tell him that what ever they hell he has against Cegelis, he should get over it. Maybe suggest that he should start helping the candidates like Cegelis who are positioned to lay into their Republican opponents. Maybe he should rethink spending his time and resources recruiting out of district candidates for costly primary races while the GOP sits back leisurely raises more money.
Maybe you just need to point this out to him:
Congressman Rahm Emanuel:
1319 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
3742 West Irving Park Road
Chicago, IL 60618
Democatic Congressional Campaign Committee:
430 South Capitol Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
Phone Number: 202-863-1500
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org