WE ARE ILLINOIS
Jobs, not a remap, win elections
By Carol Marin - Chicago Sun-Times Columnist
The job numbers came out on Friday. And they stunk.
Wall Street wasn’t pleased. The Dow, Nasdaq and S&P all said so.
On Main Street in Barack Obama’s Illinois, folks didn’t need MSNBC to tell them the news. They live those jobless numbers every day.
The economy is and will be the story of next year’s election. And though Democrats in Illinois have unilaterally redrawn congressional districts to avenge their loses to the GOP in the midterm disaster of 2010, here’s a word of warning from someone who knows:
“I caution people who think this map is a slam-dunk,” said former 17th District U.S. Rep. Phil Hare. “I tell them the upcoming election will be brutal.”
Hare, the Democratic congressman from the Quad Cities, was one of the stunning upsets of 2010, one of five Democrats who went down in flames as Illinois voters handed five Republican freshmen their jobs.
“You had people who really liked me. I got higher than 60 percent on all sorts of [voter approval] measures,” he said Friday by phone. “But those same people did not like what was happening” in Washington.
Hare, who mustered only 44 percent of the vote against the Tea Party’s Bobby Schilling, announced last week he won’t make a run for his old seat in 2012.
And the line of other potential Democratic challengers is already forming. Among them are Cheri Bustos, an alderman from East Moline, and David Koehler, a state senator from Peoria.
“I’ve heard at least a half dozen names,” said Bustos by phone on Friday. And, echoing Hare, she added the race will hinge on “joblessness and the economy” in a congressional district where one county alone, Winnebago, has a whopping 11.8 percent unemployment rate.
The remap that is giving the Republicans fits will without question hand Democrats some of the victories they seek. Before there is an election, however, the remap will be fought in court. And so, GOP members of Congress are being very careful about what they say.
One of them is 8th District U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, who unseated three-term incumbent Melissa Bean in 2010. The district he won in looks nothing like the district he will run in.
Under the new map, his house is in the new 14th District, his office in the new 10th District and a big chunk of his current territory in the new 6th.
What he knows for certain, he says, “Is that I’m running for election from somewhere.”
Back to Phil Hare. Losing in 2010 probably saved his life. After the election, he paid a visit to his cardiologist. He was overweight. His blood pressure was sky high and so were his cholesterol and blood sugar.
Today, he has lost 85 pounds, and his doctor noticed recently he seems to smile more.
For the first time in 28 years, Hare didn’t have to work on Memorial Day. But he’s watching this political race of 2012. And he will help Bustos or Koehler or another candidate attempt to defeat the guy who defeated him.
But as he tried to explain to President Obama’s Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, awhile back when Geithner was citing measurable signs of recovery, “There are people in my district who can’t buy stock, they’ve lost their homes and lost their pensions.”
In other words, changing legislative boundaries to favor Democrats may still not be enough.
SOURCE: Chicago Sun-Times
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