DIERSEN HEADLINE: The Chicago Tribune, a newspaper that wants Democrats to win, promotes Andy McKenna, Jim Thompson, Kirk Dillard, Bill Brady, Tom Cross, Mark Kirk, Dan Rutherford, Bob Schillerstrom, Karen McConnaughay, Christine Radogno, and Pam Althoff
Back to Square 1 for GOP As the national tide turns against Republicans, state officials seek to reverse wave - Rick Pearson, John Chase, and Ted Gregory
After four years in which Illinois Republicans lost their quarter-century hold on the governor's mansion, failed to field a credible candidate for the U.S. Senate and saw a former governor convicted on federal corruption charges, the GOP faithful learned something last week:
Things can get worse.
Not since Franklin D. Roosevelt scored a huge victory over Alf Landon in the 1936 presidential election have Illinois Republicans been completely shut out of statewide elected office, as well as being in the minority in the General Assembly and on the state Supreme Court.
In the aftermath, some question whether a rebuilding is needed, or a revolution.
Already, party insiders are discussing the status of state Republican Chairman Andy McKenna as well as the fate of Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson of Greenville. Watson suffered devastating losses and the Senate GOP will find itself next year all but irrelevant in a chamber that now has a Democratic super-majority.
State Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, the DuPage County GOP chairman, is considering running for the Senate Republican leadership.
On the federal level, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk of Highland Park, who survived an election scare in an increasingly Democratic North Shore district, is considering a 2008 U.S. Senate challenge to two-term Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, said one Republican close to the congressman.
McKenna said leading Republicans have told him they would like him to continue as chairman "and I have the passion to continue to do it."
He contended Republicans at all levels in Illinois found themselves at the mercy of a national environment favoring Democrats: "We would have been more successful if that hadn't occurred."
Roskam seen as model
McKenna points to Peter Roskam's victory in the open-seat west suburban 6th Congressional District race against Democrat Tammy Duckworth as a template for the GOP's future, investing in ground forces and targeted-household data-files to recruit voters.
"Peter Roskam demonstrates what can happen when you put the right kind of field organization in place and have a candidate who can win on the issues, even in suburban communities that have trended away from us," McKenna said. "Now we've got to build that same thing across the state."
Yet Roskam's victory came in a longtime Republican congressional district less affected by Democratic gains than other suburban areas. The multimillion dollar cost to give Roskam an edge points to the difficulties that the GOP may face in years ahead.
The GOP also finds itself struggling from the after-effects of a scandal that led to the conviction of former Gov. George Ryan and helped Democrats to win the governor's mansion in 2002.
And it continues to witness an ideological split between social moderates who have dominated the party leadership and social conservatives looking to gain control.
A vocal minority of conservatives advocated a rejection of failed Republican governor candidate Judy Baar Topinka, and instead preferred the re-election of Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, hoping that would help them oust the moderate state party leadership.
Struggling with moderation
Some conservatives argue that moderates have corrupted the party infrastructure for their own personal benefit. They also have long complained that the party's moderate leadership has done little to back conservative candidates when they have won primary nomination.
Yet Alan Keyes' 2004 U.S. Senate candidacy, which was quickly crushed beneath the weight of the candidate's bombastic self-promotion, also symbolizes the credibility problem that conservatives face.
"I'm not sure this will ever change," Dallas Ingemunson, a longtime state GOP official and the Kendall County Republican Party chairman, said of the infighting.
Where the party turns for its new leaders is likely to set the stage for new battles. Members of the predominant moderate wing argue that with the state turning increasingly Democratic, Republican candidates of the future will need to adopt a more centrist approach.
"The voters of Illinois have always rewarded moderate candidates of both parties and if the Republican Party can get that through its head in the state of Illinois, and nominate candidates that can not only win the primary but can win the general election, then we'll do very well," said former Gov. James Thompson. Thompson is one of the founding fathers of the GOP's moderate wing and led the 26-year string of Republican governors broken by Blagojevich.
Republican state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington said the state GOP needs to focus more on developing common ground between conservative and moderate elements.
"It comes to leadership that focuses on what we can accomplish together," said Brady, a conservative who lost to Judy Baar Topinka in the March GOP primary for governor. "There's no pro-life Republican that's going to convince every Republican that they should be pro-life. But if we focus on issues that unite us and build a stronger team, understanding that nobody is going to agree on everything, that's what is important."
Brady has come under fire from some conservative elements who contended he played a spoiler role in the primary by taking away votes from conservative businessman James Oberweis and allowing the socially moderate Topinka to win the nomination.
"To think I would spend 120 hours a week away from my friends and family and business and invest tens of thousands of dollars on this just to be a stooge for somebody else borders on lunacy," he said.
Topinka's loss on Tuesday brought an end to her 26 years in public service, and it marks the beginning of at least a generational change for the GOP as it looks for new leaders.
In addition to Brady, leading Republicans also cite House Minority Leader Tom Cross of Oswego, state Sen. Dan Rutherford of Chenoa, who was defeated in the race for secretary of state, and Kirk as potential leaders and candidates.
Dillard said the state GOP also should look to the suburbs for future candidates, including DuPage County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom, Kane County Board Chairwoman Karen McConnaughay, state Sens. Christine Radogno of Lemont, who lost a bid for state treasurer, and Pamela Althoff of McHenry.
"We're all disappointed with the results," McKenna said. "Right now, it's difficult. But there is a path there."
DIERSEN HEADLINE: The Chicago Tribune, a newspaper that wants Democrats to win, blasts Hastert
Denny and the Do-Littles - Editorial
A retrospective about the Democratic Party's capture of Congress could begin with these three sentences:
Millions of Americans who decry rampant federal spending and Capitol Hill corruption welcome the demotion of congressional Republicans who once championed conservative causes--but lost their way in Washington.
Angry voters, many of whom had trusted the GOP to be the party of cleaner, leaner government, dethroned House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) by awarding 20-some Republican seats to a relatively moderate-to-conservative class of incoming Democrats. The Guardian of London described the more iconoclastic members of the class in a Friday dispatch from the States: "Pro-gun, anti-abortion and fiscally conservative--Meet the neo-Dems."
That analysis may shock Americans who cling to the notion of a world of partisan equilibrium: Liberals vote for Democrats, conservatives for Republicans. But American voters haven't been afraid to veer from one major party to the other--especially in the quarter-century since Republican Ronald Reagan invited millions of "Reagan Democrats" into his tent.
Yes, Democrats triumphed on Tuesday. But the larger lesson may be that both liberal and conservative voters gave a thumpin' to Denny and the Do-Littles--entrenched congressional Republicans whose message boiled down to this: It's sweet that all you voters want your concerns addressed, but our big priority is staying in power.
That's truth-telling on which even Barack Obama and Rush Limbaugh can agree:
In a pre-election fundraising letter for Democratic Senate candidates, Obama convincingly lambasted the incumbent majority's "can't-do, won't-do, won't-even-try style of governance."
Limbaugh told his Wednesday listeners: "It wasn't conservatism that lost. Conservatism won when it ran as a Democrat. It won in a number of places. Republicanism lost. Republican-in-name-only Republicans, country club blue-blood Republicans, this non-partisan Republican identity, that's what went down in flames."
Score one for the liberal senator from Illinois, one for the conservative broadcaster.
Particularly in the last two years, cautious GOP leaders in Congress squandered one opportunity after another to resolve problems. Retiring Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) deserves a share of the blame. And in the House, well, Hastert has been good for Illinois, which this page noted last month in endorsing him for re-election. But under Frist and Hastert, the supposedly disciplined conservatives whom voters had been sending to Congress since 1994 became an undisciplined rabble of big spenders, more devoted to crowd-pleasing earmarks than to constructive work on hard issues.
Hastert lent little but lip service to President Bush's efforts to confront the pending crisis in Social Security; worse, Hastert essentially let Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi of California get away with denying that a serious problem even exists. Hastert also chose to exploit immigration as a hot-button political issue rather than a recurring American debate that needed to be resolved.
Most damaging: His tepid ho-hummery to scandals that cost three of his members their seats--Duke Cunningham, Tom DeLay and Bob Ney--telegraphed laxness toward corruption. The image of Hastert and his staff as slow-footed in reacting to reports of Rep. Mark Foley's flirtations with pages sealed many Americans' verdict that Congress needed a scrubdown.
Americans did not, though, choose a classically liberal path on Tuesday. They took generally (although not exclusively) conservative tacks on major ballot referendums (see next editorial). And they did send many moderate, in some cases even conservative, Democrats to Washington.
Republicans can munch popcorn now as Democrats run the House and Senate--or they can refocus on the principles that gave them the congressional majorities they've lost. Potential House leaders such as Indiana's Mike Pence and Arizona's John Shadegg and Jeff Flake grasp the first rule of American conservatism: Government has to live within its means.
The GOP can find one upside to losing the House and Senate. It stands to gain a new generation of leaders.
Roskam to oppose tax hikes, spending Republican has been in minority in past - John Biemer
As he prepares to join a dramatically revamped Congress representing the west suburban 6th District, Republican Congressman-elect Peter Roskam says fighting tax hikes and controlling government spending are his top two priorities.
"The biggest challenge is going to be trying to be the consistent voice for tax cuts in a majority that looks like they want to raise taxes," Roskam said Friday outside his Wheaton home in his first public appearance since defeating Democrat Tammy Duckworth.
"The benefits that we've had from cutting taxes have helped to drive the economy to the point where it's fairly buoyant and growing."
Roskam, currently a state senator, conceded he was entering "a different environment than we anticipated" with a new majority in Washington, but he cited his experience working with Democrats as a member of the Illinois legislature's minority party.
"I know what it's like to roll up your sleeves and work across the aisle, and there's a time for donkeys and elephants and there's a time to set that aside," Roskam said.
Democratic calls to increase the minimum wage are a "real concern," he said, because that could cause a "ripple effect" and cost jobs.
Roskam won 51 percent of the vote to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde in a seat long considered safely Republican. Roskam called his opponent, an Iraq war veteran, a "very good," well-funded candidate with a "winsome personality and a very dynamic story."
"She was not someone that I ever underestimated," he said.
Roskam said he was pushed to victory by the "cumulative effect of the help of a lot of people"--ranging from chambers of commerce to the Teamsters. He also noted his campaign had a "very strong local element."
Duckworth said she believed down-the-stretch ads attacking her positions, repeated recorded phone messages and mailers that included images like Osama bin Laden cost her the election. "I think that there were a lot of votes there that were cast based on fear, and I don't think that that serves the constituents," she said Thursday.
Roskam said he was fine with the messages that came from his campaign, although he could not account for ads by outside groups that supported him. He called politics a "rough and tumble business."
"There can be a lot of sharp elbows thrown, and it happens on both sides," he said. "What I think voters are looking forward to now is turning a page on an election and saying, `OK, now let's start the process of governing.'"
DIERSEN HEADLINE: The Chicago Tribune, a newspaper that wants Democrats to win, promotes Rahm Emanuel
(FROM THE EDITORIAL: Eclipsed by the election night euphoria was the fact that one of Emanuel's few disappointments came in his own back yard. Tammy Duckworth, a captain in the Illinois Army National Guard, lost to state Sen. Peter Roskam despite being one of the Democrats' highest-profile candidates. Initially recruited by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Duckworth was the only wounded Iraq war veteran running for Congress. And she proved an irresistible news story, as Emanuel knew she would: A brave woman volunteers to serve in Iraq, loses both legs in combat and returns to seek office. Her candidacy also showed Emanuel's sometimes-callous pragmatism. When Duckworth entered the race, another Democrat, Christine Cegelis, was already running for the same seat. Cegelis had run two years earlier, done surprisingly well and built a loyal following. But Emanuel and Durbin did not believe she was working hard enough or raising sufficient money, and they settled on Duckworth as better-suited to the centrist district. Between the appeal of her story and the power of her patrons, Duckworth won the backing of nearly every influential institution in Illinois. The state AFL-CIO announced its support for Duckworth — even though Cegelis, not Duckworth, was a former union member. Emanuel used his connections to get Duckworth an appearance on the Sunday talk show hosted by George Stephanopoulos, his friend and former colleague in the Clinton White House. Another Emanuel ally, Axelrod, became Duckworth's media consultant. Cegelis could not compete with this, losing 44 percent to 40 percent to Duckworth in the March primary, with a third candidate getting the rest. In the general election campaign, Roskam cast Duckworth as a puppet of Emanuel. "My opponent, in her name-calling, has called me a rubber stamp," Roskam said during one debate. "But I challenge my opponent to come up with one issue on which she differs from Congressman Rahm Emanuel." Days before the election, Roskam's campaign gave Emanuel and the Duckworth camp a little of their own business. Just as organized labor had supported her in the primary even though Cegelis was the former card-carrying union member, the VFW endorsed Roskam even though Duckworth was the wounded war veteran. Ultimately the district was too Republican, and Duckworth was too green, to pull off a win.)
How Rahm Emanuel helped end an era of Republican rule - Naftali Bendavid
Rahm Emanuel was seething.
He was hurtling down an asphalt road in upstate New York on the 47th trip of his ferocious campaign to win back the House. A lecture, even from his friend James Carville, was the last thing he needed.
In just 12 days, Emanuel's quest would end in a historic victory—a triumph that almost no one believed possible when he accepted the challenge nearly two years ago—or in colossal failure.
And here were Carville and pollster Stan Greenberg telling him he had to make each of his handpicked candidates shift from attack mode and strike a conciliatory note in their final campaign ads.
"James. No James, YOU LISTEN," Emanuel barked into a cell phone, about to release a string of profane invectives more intense than usual. "Can you listen for one [expletive] minute? I'm working these campaigns all the time. The campaigns all have different textures."
His wiry body tensed, his voice breaking with stress. Emanuel shouted, "If you don't like what you see, I highly recommend you pick up the … phone and do it yourself."
The moment captured Rahm in full, a portrait in power of a brutally effective taskmaster.
During the past year, the Tribune had exclusive access to the strategy sessions, private fundraisers and other moments that shaped this victory. The newspaper agreed not to print any of the details until after the election. Now that the votes have been counted, the story of how Emanuel helped end an era of Republican rule can be told.
He did it, in large measure, by remaking the Democratic Party in his own image.
Democrats had never raised enough money. Emanuel, a savvy fundraiser who shaped those skills under Richard M. Daley and Bill Clinton, yelled at colleagues and threatened his candidates into generating an unprecedented amount of campaign cash.
Democrats had a history of appeasing party constituencies. Emanuel tore up the old litmus tests on abortion and other issues. With techniques that would make a Big Ten football coach blush, he recruited candidates who could mount tough challenges in some of the reddest patches of America.
Democrats had blanched at hardball. Emanuel, jokingly called "Rahmbo" even by his mother, muscled weaker Democrats out of races in favor of stronger ones, and ridiculed the chairman of his own party.
In January 2005, when Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi asked Emanuel to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or DCCC, experts predicted that the party would take perhaps three seats. On Tuesday, it picked up at least 28, changing the course of the Bush presidency.
In a world where congressmen refer to each other as "my distinguished colleague," Emanuel, 46, is sometimes unable to get through a single sentence without several obscenities. His politics are centrist, but his style is extremist. The top of his right middle finger was severed when he was a teenager, adding to his aura of toughness—especially when he extends that middle finger, which he does with some regularity.
For all his forcefulness, Emanuel was not responsible for the political climate, either the failing war or the sex and corruption scandals racking the Republican Party. But with creative recruiting, unremitting fundraising and a national message, he positioned the Democrats to exploit that collapse.
In doing so, Emanuel had to be familiar with roughly 50 individual races—the candidates, the interest groups, the voting blocs. It resembled a game of three-dimensional chess, in that what happened in one district could affect dozens of others.
From the outset, there could be only one measure of success: the number of seats the Democrats won. Bill Paxon, a former New York congressman who held Emanuel's job for the Republicans when they seized the House in 1994, explained the unforgiving math.
"Unlike a lot of things in government where there is compromise, there is only one result—you either win or you lose—and you are judged on that," Paxon said. "You can look at fundraising, candidate recruitment and other things, but they are meaningless. The only thing that matters is if you win or lose."
This is the story of how Rahm and the Democrats won.
The Republicans always had killers on their side, ruthless closers like Karl Rove, Tom DeLay and Lee Atwater, the late mudslinging mastermind credited with getting the first President Bush elected.
In Emanuel, Democrats had their counterpart, a tactician of a caliber the party had not seen since the young Lyndon Johnson converted the DCCC into a power base.
Emanuel's thin, unimposing frame still hints at the teen and college years devoted to ballet; his voice sometimes screeches, and his words can get jumbled in public speeches.
But his political style—honed in Chicago and on the presidential campaign trail with Clinton—isn't gentle or uncertain. His reputation as a political street fighter inspires respect and more than a little fear.
Some Republicans coped by employing humor. Spotting Emanuel in the House gym last July, Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut told him he knew that he'd been targeted. Emanuel was planning to spend $3 million to defeat the popular moderate.
"I'll tell you what," Shays said. "Just give me the $3 million, and I'll retire voluntarily."
Emanuel's strategy was to keep the opposition uncomfortable. If a Republican congressman took a vote that he hoped no one in his district would notice, such as supporting a Bush budget cut, Emanuel immediately issued a press release and sent it to the Republican's hometown newspaper. He then sent it to the lawmaker's office to, as he said, "[mess] with their heads."
He had the DCCC designate one Republican as the "rubber stamp of the week" and another as the "crony of the week," a gimmick that generated a surprising amount of local coverage. Republicans who received money from drugmakers or oil companies were ridiculed as lackeys of special interests.
Last fall, a Democratic takeover of the House was laughable. Emanuel faced a merciless political map. Computer-assisted gerrymandering had made it possible for Republicans to draw congressional boundaries with increasing precision, ensuring a maximum number of GOP-leaning districts.
And yet Emanuel worried the GOP. "I think there is a lot of angst on our side," Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said late last year.
The popularity of the war in Iraq already was declining, and the president's poll numbers weren't good. If things got worse, GOP strategists sensed that Emanuel was someone who could take advantage of the opportunity. "If you are in a lead-pipe cinch Republican district, it's easier. But if you are in a marginal district, it's tough," Cole said. "The shark looks beautiful when you are outside the tank. But inside, it's a little different."
One of Emanuel's top targets, Rep. E. Clay Shaw of Florida, was 67, had served in the House for a quarter-century and had no desire to end his career with an embarrassing loss. One day last summer, when Emanuel was walking from his office to the Capitol, he passed Shaw. He nodded, saying "Clay" by way of greeting. Shaw stared ahead icily and kept walking. "See how he didn't say hello?" Emanuel asked.
He knew he was despised. "Look, this is not for the fainthearted," Emanuel said. "Their job is important to them, and I am seen as a threat to their job security. And that's life. And I didn't come here to win a popularity contest with them."
He added, "I wake up some mornings hating me too."
None of Emanuel's relationships with Republicans was testier than the one with Rep. Tom Reynolds, the upstate New Yorker who was his Republican counterpart. A stocky 56-year-old, Reynolds sometimes flinched when Emanuel's name was mentioned. Reynolds tried to be sportsmanlike, even when Emanuel targeted him for defeat—breaking the usual gentlemen's deal not to go after whoever was running the other party's campaign.
"If this was a tennis game, I would say he's a good tennis player and he makes my game better," Reynolds said grudgingly late last year. "He's a good pol. He's from Chicago." Then Reynolds added that he was a good pol too, from New York.
INTENSE, EVEN IN TIGHTS
Central to Emanuel's ability to unnerve his political enemies is his fierce intensity, a quality that wasn't initially apparent as he grew up on the North Shore of Chicago. He played peacemaker between his older brother Ezekiel and his younger brother Ari, and he pirouetted around the house. "Ari would be wrestling, Zeke would be pondering deep thoughts, and Rahmmy would be leaping down the stairs and doing ballet dance twirls," his mother, Marsha, recalled.
Ari even got the top bunk bed when he and Rahm shared a room, even though Rahm was older and could have laid claim to it. "I was physically stronger," Ari Emanuel explained.
But when their parents sent Rahm to study ballet, his single-mindedness emerged. "Intense would be a word I would have used even then," said Kerry Hubata, his former ballet teacher. "I've seen kids with physical talent but didn't work as hard. Others, who weren't as gifted physically but had the desire and didn't mind the pain, succeeded more. He had the drive."
That drive only increased when Emanuel suffered an accident just before his 1977 graduation from New Trier West High School. Working at an Arby's, Emanuel badly cut the middle finger of his right hand. He insisted on going to prom festivities anyway, including a swim in Lake Michigan, and the finger became badly infected. Emanuel, his family recalled, lay near death in Children's Memorial Hospital with a fever of 106 degrees, as antibiotics were pumped into him. In the end, doctors removed half his finger.
"That was a big turning point in Rahm's life," said his mother, sitting in the kitchen of the Emanuels' modest two-story home in Wilmette. "It was touch-and-go, and finally when he came out of it he was more serious. … I honestly think that was his existential moment of near-death and realizing that you have to do something with life."
Emanuel was not the only brother with a drive to succeed. Ezekiel, the eldest, became an oncologist, joined the faculty at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard University, and is now a prominent medical ethicist at the National Institutes of Health. Ari went to Hollywood and has become an enormously wealthy agent, not to mention the inspiration for the bombastic Ari Gold character on HBO's "Entourage." (Emanuel, too, partly inspired a TV character: Josh Lyman on "The West Wing.")
The accomplished brothers came from parents with strong personalities. Emanuel's father, Benjamin, worked for the Jewish underground in pre-state Israel—he was smashed on the head by a British officer's baton, which left a dent in his skull—and became a well-known pediatrician in Chicago. Emanuel's mother was a civil rights activist who sometimes did not come home at night because she had been arrested. The Emanuels also adopted a daughter, Shoshana, who had a difficult youth and has kept a low profile.
Ezekiel Emanuel attributes the congressman's drive to their father. "He was notorious for seeing twice as many patients as the next guy on this list," Ezekiel said. "He would be personable, but just 'Get to the meat of things and get it done.'
"That obviously is a trait that people can see in Rahm, and it's quite clear where it came from, in my opinion."
Personable, however, is not a word many would use to describe Benjamin Emanuel's middle son. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen once said of catcher A.J. Pierzynski: "If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less." Though Emanuel has his die-hard loyalists, he could be the Democratic Party's A.J. Pierzynski.
On a late-spring day in 2006, Emanuel and Charles Schumer, the New Yorker in charge of winning the Senate for the Democrats, walked into the office of party Chairman Howard Dean.
Emanuel, once again, was ready for a fight.
For months, he and Schumer had been imploring the iconoclastic former presidential candidate to channel more money into congressional campaigns. Dean had been pushing a "50-state strategy" to build a Democratic operation in every part of the country.
The national party usually spent millions to help House candidates, but Dean was instead using the money to build this far-flung operation, to Emanuel's immense frustration. He felt Dean's strategy wasted money in unwinnable places.
According to Emanuel, the meeting devolved into a confrontation over resources. Emanuel said that the Republicans planned to heavily fund key races and that if Dean refused to do the same, it would amount to unilateral disarmament. Dean replied that he was fielding activists in every corner of every state.
Ridiculing the effort, Emanuel told Dean that he had seen no sign of it. "I know your field plan. It doesn't exist," he recalled saying. "I've gone around the country with these races. I've seen your people. There's no plan, Howard."
The tongue-lashing was another example of how Emanuel took a sledgehammer to intraparty niceties, making plenty of enemies along the way.
The gravitational center of Democratic antagonism toward Emanuel was the Congressional Black Caucus. Many of the caucus' 43 members complained that Emanuel had not hired enough African-American staffers. They also protested that when he harangued lawmakers to pay their DCCC dues, he did not recognize how hard it was for black politicians, many of whom represented poorer areas, to raise money. The protests often erupted into shouting matches. "If a person says, 'Danny Davis, where are your dues?' I may have a particular difficulty getting my dues that you don't know about or you don't relate to," Rep. Danny Davis, the West Side Democrat, said last summer. "Rahm don't take no prisoners."
Emanuel was privately contemptuous of such complaints. He saw the Black Caucus as one more party faction, like conservative Democrats, that would rather complain than work. Asked about the number of black staffers at the DCCC—two African-Americans were on his senior staff of about 10 people—he waved his hand dismissively. "You know that every [DCCC] chairman has faced the same criticism?" he said. "OK. So I don't give a [expletive]," he added, literally spitting.
Then he began ranting about his conservative party colleagues. "They hate me too, because I'm arrogant and pushy with them. … Because they've never, ever WORKED! NOBODY! NONE OF 'EM!"
Little enraged Emanuel as much as a fellow Democrat who didn't share his unrelenting drive to win. In January 2006, Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat, was quoted in a local newspaper speaking sympathetically of Republican Clay Shaw. Because of his longtime friendship with Shaw, Hastings pointedly declined to endorse Shaw's Democratic challenger.
Hastings was a colorful figure. A former federal judge, he was removed from the bench by Congress in 1989 for corruption and perjury, only the sixth U.S. judge in history to suffer this fate. He took revenge by winning a seat in Congress. A forceful speaker, Hastings chastised Emanuel in a closed meeting of House Democrats for not recruiting more candidates.
"He's great on lectures," Emanuel said later. "Phenomenal lecturer. I'm getting a lecture on recruitment when A, you haven't done a … damn thing, and B, we've got a [Republican] target and you're out there kissing his [behind] in the press?"
Hastings refused to back down, saying he was close to both Shaw and his Democratic rival, Ron Klein, and could not in good conscience take sides. "Ron Klein is my friend. I have known Clay Shaw for nearly 40 years," he said. "Far be it from me to insert myself in a race of that kind."
Hastings was hardly the only Democrat who Emanuel thought was not pulling his weight. Many of his colleagues were doing great work, he said, but dozens of others declined to help him take on their Republican friends.
"You've got to have a thirst for winning," he said. "You know what our party thinks? 'We're good people with good ideas. That's just enough, isn't it?' Being tough enough, mean enough and vicious enough is just not what they want. … They just want to be patted on the back for the noble effort. No."
This no-holds-barred politics came naturally to Emanuel. In the 1980s he joined the campaigns of Sen. Paul Simon and Mayor Daley, proving adept at raising money. (Daley would later return the favor by fielding city patronage workers to help Emanuel win his first congressional election in 2002; that get-out-the-vote operation is now part of a federal investigation.)
Political consultant David Axelrod remembers Emanuel as a young Chicago political operative. "The first word that comes to mind is chutzpah," Axelrod said. "He redefined the term."
Emanuel brought that chutzpah to Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton's improbable presidential run. "He was then a little more brash and less polished than now, but he clearly had loads of ability and drive," the former president recalled in an e-mailed response to questions. "My first impression was, 'This guy is going to help us win.' And he did. I doubt we could have done it without him, especially in those critical early months."
When Clinton did win, Emanuel became his White House political director. But this time, his confrontational style failed him, as he clashed with other staffers and was quickly demoted to "director of special projects." The humiliation tempered his sharpest edges.
"He was devastated by what happened," said his mother, Marsha. "He told us that he had to sit back and rethink his methodology. And like with the finger, he took a deep breath and saw what direction he should go in."
Something of the relationship between the undisciplined president and his hard-hitting aide can be gleaned from an inscription on a photo Clinton gave Emanuel on his 38th birthday. Clinton signed it as though he were Emanuel: "Now Mr. President, how many times do I have to tell you, say it this way?" Clinton wrote. "And, by the way, wish me a happy birthday. Always gently, Rahm 11/29/97."
Emanuel's passion and loyalty won him the allegiance of others as well. Stan Greenberg's daughter Anna, a friend of Emanuel's as well as his pollster, asked him to officiate at her wedding earlier this year. Emanuel studied hard, read sacred texts and consulted a rabbi.
He could not resist cracking a few political jokes at the ceremony. But the wedding highlighted Emanuel's attachment to Judaism. "It's not as much about going to synagogue," Greenberg said. "But having ritual and tradition and teaching Jewish values are really, really important to him."
It was a side of Emanuel not seen by many people, including many of his fellow Democratic congressmen.
On a warm night last May, Emanuel summoned them to a colorless conference room at Democratic headquarters. He had walked a fine line for a year and a half, hoping to excite Democrats without unduly raising expectations. But now he felt the time had come to convince them that they could actually win.
As several dozen House members settled into hard chairs, Emanuel cited polls suggesting that voters were ready for change. He also showed a video that included a quote from Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio confessing, "These numbers are scary." Images of Tom DeLay and other Republicans felled by scandal flashed on the screen to the pumping rhythm of the Queen song "Another One Bites the Dust."
Demoralized by defeat, many Democrats had begun to think that they would lose no matter how favorable the political winds. Al Gore and John Kerry appeared to have the momentum in their races, only to suffer crushing losses. The GOP had more money, armies of social conservatives and an entire region of the country, the South, almost uniformly in its camp.
But with his mastery of details, Emanuel gradually convinced even his most jaded colleagues that the Democrats could reach more than the 15-seat net gain they needed to seize the House for the first time since 1992.
Emanuel was constantly on the phone to candidates—coaching, reassuring, tormenting. In an August call to candidate Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, Emanuel promised that Bill Clinton would help him raise money. "Joe Sestak, this is your rabbi, Rahm," he intoned playfully. "Clinton. I'm close to having him do an event for you in Philly. … Clinton will put his arm around you and say, 'He's my man.'"
In a fairly typical sign-off, he concluded another call to Sestak: "Don't [mess] it up or … I'll kill you. All right, I love you. Bye."
He warned another Pennsylvania hopeful, Chris Carney, about negative ads the GOP was about to unleash. "They're going to come after you," Emanuel said. "You haven't said anything stupid on the hustings, have you?
"Well, don't waste your time with me. Go raise some more money."
A MACHO MAKEOVER
All of Emanuel's scolding and cajoling would have meant nothing if he fielded weak candidates. After yet another devastating loss in 2004, he and other Democratic leaders quickly determined that the party needed a machismo implant. Emanuel looked for candidates with strong backgrounds, from sheriffs to soldiers, to counteract a Democratic image of softness.
This is why he badly wanted Heath Shuler, a former football star, to run for Congress as a Democrat in North Carolina. An evangelical Christian who opposes abortion, Shuler couldn't easily have his views caricatured by the GOP.
But Shuler was worried that if he ran and won, he would never see his two young children. To prove that congressmen do spend time with their children, Emanuel started calling Shuler in early 2005 whenever he was with his own family.
Shuler would pick up the phone and hear, "It's Rahm. I'm at a soccer game with my kids. Just wanted you to know that." Or "It's Rahm. I'm at a kindergarten play now. Talk to you soon." Shuler received perhaps 10 such calls. Of course, this also illustrated that whenever Emanuel was with his family, he was working.
In any case, Shuler agreed to jump in the race, challenging a 16-year incumbent and becoming one of the Democrats' hottest candidates. "I was recruited from high school to play college football, I was recruited by almost every college in the country, and then I was recruited into the NFL," said Shuler, a former Washington Redskins quarterback.
"I know all the angles that people use to recruit you," he added. "Nobody does it as well as Rahm Emanuel."
Emanuel believed in being tough. In September 2005, he described a Vietnam veteran he was trying to recruit this way: "I don't know if he's going to win, but I'll tell you this: I don't want to cross [him]. I think he would take out a knife and kill you. I think he would kill you." Emanuel viewed this as an asset.
His goal was to recruit 50 credible challengers. He had one criterion: people who could win. That may sound obvious, but it's not. Many Democrats did not believe in recruiting overly conservative candidates, no matter how promising. In the past, those like Shuler who opposed abortion were not welcome in the party.
"We don't have an ideological purity test," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Emanuel's top lieutenant for recruiting. "If you believe in the basic gut principles of the Democratic Party—opportunity, fairness for all—we're not going to hold people to a litmus test."
Emanuel's recruiting effort had its share of failures; his top two candidates to challenge Rep. Richard Pombo, a vulnerable California Republican, turned him down, and his third candidate lost in the primary. (Pombo lost anyway, reflecting the magnitude of the Democratic victory.) Republicans mocked many of his recruits as "B-list."
But in the election's aftermath, it is clear that Democrats won several races, including Shuler's, that they would have lost if not for Emanuel's tireless recruiting. He had put enough legitimate challengers in place to exploit the unexpected opportunity.
Eclipsed by the election night euphoria was the fact that one of Emanuel's few disappointments came in his own back yard. Tammy Duckworth, a captain in the Illinois Army National Guard, lost to state Sen. Peter Roskam despite being one of the Democrats' highest-profile candidates.
Initially recruited by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Duckworth was the only wounded Iraq war veteran running for Congress. And she proved an irresistible news story, as Emanuel knew she would: A brave woman volunteers to serve in Iraq, loses both legs in combat and returns to seek office.
Her candidacy also showed Emanuel's sometimes-callous pragmatism. When Duckworth entered the race, another Democrat, Christine Cegelis, was already running for the same seat. Cegelis had run two years earlier, done surprisingly well and built a loyal following. But Emanuel and Durbin did not believe she was working hard enough or raising sufficient money, and they settled on Duckworth as better-suited to the centrist district.
Between the appeal of her story and the power of her patrons, Duckworth won the backing of nearly every influential institution in Illinois. The state AFL-CIO announced its support for Duckworth — even though Cegelis, not Duckworth, was a former union member.
Emanuel used his connections to get Duckworth an appearance on the Sunday talk show hosted by George Stephanopoulos, his friend and former colleague in the Clinton White House. Another Emanuel ally, Axelrod, became Duckworth's media consultant. Cegelis could not compete with this, losing 44 percent to 40 percent to Duckworth in the March primary, with a third candidate getting the rest.
In the general election campaign, Roskam cast Duckworth as a puppet of Emanuel. "My opponent, in her name-calling, has called me a rubber stamp," Roskam said during one debate. "But I challenge my opponent to come up with one issue on which she differs from Congressman Rahm Emanuel."
Days before the election, Roskam's campaign gave Emanuel and the Duckworth camp a little of their own business. Just as organized labor had supported her in the primary even though Cegelis was the former card-carrying union member, the VFW endorsed Roskam even though Duckworth was the wounded war veteran.
Ultimately the district was too Republican, and Duckworth was too green, to pull off a win.
'DIG DEEP DOWN'
Emanuel walked into the offices of Prince, Lobel, Glovsky & Tye, a top Boston law firm, early one morning last August. The mission: extract as much money as possible from the 20 lawyers chewing bagels around a 30-foot conference table.
"I've been in politics for 20 years. This is the first time I've seen the stars aligned like this," Emanuel told them. "People know the party in power has messed things up."
Despite his phrasemaking, Emanuel was not a great speaker; he could lapse into a confusing shorthand on politics or legislation. But his message on this day was clear. He held up a $12,000 check he had just written to New Hampshire Democratic candidate Jim Craig. "I'm in for 12, folks," Emanuel said. "I want you to dig deep down. … For the first time, this is within our grasp."
Several listeners pulled out checkbooks on the spot, and the event raised $20,000. Someone asked Emanuel how he planned to spend the money he was raising nationally. He would not distribute funds based on which candidates he liked, he said, nor on who were the most loyal Democrats.
"I'm cutthroat about this," he said. "I don't give a crap where I pick up seats. I plan on winning. There is no emotional attachment."
Emanuel had arrived at the DCCC with a reputation as a world-class fundraiser. As finance director for Bill Clinton's first presidential run, Emanuel jumped on a table to exhort his staff to work harder. He yelled at donors, refusing to accept checks he considered too small. He probably saved Clinton's candidacy by keeping the cash flowing even after embarrassing reports of Clinton's affair with Gennifer Flowers.
Democrats always trail Republicans in fundraising, but in his fight for the House, Emanuel was determined to keep the money race close. No matter how good candidates were, it meant little if they did not have cash to advertise and pay campaign workers. Emanuel's first goal, as he traveled the country asking for money, was to raise $95 million. But as the Democrats gained momentum, contributions surged and Emanuel raised his target to $105 million. By the campaign's end, the Democrats had brought in close to $120 million, easily surpassing all previous records.
Emanuel and his staff judged a candidate almost entirely by how much money he or she brought in. If the candidate proved a good fundraiser, the DCCC would provide support, advertising and strategic advice. If not, the committee would shut him or her out.
Emanuel's demands were specific. Democratic challengers, for instance, had to raise $320,000 by March 31. At a staff meeting a year ago, talk turned to a Pennsylvania Democrat named Andy Warren who had raised a meager $38,662 in the previous three months.
Emanuel ordered the staff to drop Warren and back his Democratic opponent. "Eliminate him," Emanuel said curtly.
As for other candidates who had not met their goals, Emanuel said, "We'll just take three hours tomorrow, and I'll call the idiots who need to be pushed."
THE FINAL SPRINT
The story of the 2006 campaign was ultimately that of an overreaching Republican coalition that imploded over sex and corruption scandals as well as Iraq's descent into chaos. With astounding speed, Republicans found themselves out of sync with the voters, falling from grace in nearly unprecedented fashion. Emanuel did not know that would happen any more than anyone else did. His goal at the outset had been simply to win more seats than expected.
The effort exacted a toll on Emanuel, a father of two girls and a boy. After he voted for himself in the Illinois Democratic primary in March, his 8-year-old daughter Ilana had said she hoped he would lose so he would not travel so much. She could imitate Emanuel's conversations with people such as Schumer, New York's senior senator.
"Chuck," she would say. A pause, and then, louder, "CHUCK!" Emanuel's son, Zach, 9, stopped talking to him when he called from the road. When Emanuel was home, Zach implored him to stop talking on his cell phone while they were tossing a football.
Emanuel called his wife, Amy Rule, several times a day from the road. They had met on a blind date in 1990 and married four years later. An MBA from Wharton, Rule worked at the Art Institute of Chicago but is now a stay-at-home mom, raising their children on the North Side.
In the car after an August fundraiser in Boston, Emanuel told her that he hadn't slept much the night before, kept awake by all the details of the campaign.
"How are the kids?" he asked.
After listening to her response, he said wistfully, "I'm so sorry I'm missing two little girls in the bathtub. Sounds peaceful."
His hair turned whiter during the campaign and he lost 14 pounds, his clothes hanging on a scarecrow frame. As Election Day neared, he awoke every morning at 3, agitating and strategizing. By day's end, his fingers would be trembling and his nose running from fatigue.
Most stressful for Emanuel was his lack of control over certain decisions. Campaign finance laws required him to create an "independent expenditures" group to oversee the vast majority of Democratic TV ads. Its independence was limited because it was run by John Lapp, who had spent much of the campaign as Emanuel's top aide. But Emanuel had to dump half the $120 million he had raised into the group's coffers, with no say over how it was spent.
As the campaign drew to a close, Lapp and his deputy, Ali Wade, were signing off on dozens of advertisements each day in an office across the street from the DCCC. The office was filled with chaotic activity—phones ringing, staffers charging in, ads playing on computers. A board on the wall listed districts where the DCCC was airing TV spots. One day in October, another call from James Carville prompted Wade to say in exasperation: "Can we change our number so he doesn't keep calling?"
This was a fast-moving game, especially for Emanuel. He took his 48th and final campaign trip to Las Vegas five days before the election. This visit to Nevada candidate Tessa Hafen was symbolic of how the landscape had shifted; just weeks earlier, her cause was thought to be hopeless, but now she had a chance, albeit a slim one.
Emanuel careened between overwhelming anxiety and giddiness. At a fundraiser for Hafen that night, Emanuel seemed tense. But by the next morning, preparing for his final news conference, he was in an expansive, almost joyful, mood as he gulped two cups of black coffee in the lobby of Las Vegas' monstrous Mandalay Bay hotel and casino.
"We have a seat in New Hampshire we are going to … steal," he chortled.
And in a final spurt of generosity, Emanuel ordered a gift sent to all the Democratic candidates he had been coaching for nearly two years. Back in early 2005, when he was recruiting candidates, Emanuel sent cheesecakes to particularly desirable prospects. So on the eve of the election, 70 cakes went out from Eli's Cheesecake in Chicago to Democratic challengers from Nevada to Connecticut.
A large erasable board, divided into some 80 squares for various House districts, dominated one wall in the DCCC offices on election night. Interns rushed to update results, prompting cheers or moans from the assembled staffers.
When a winner was declared in a race, the interns outlined the square in red marker. As the number of red squares grew, the magnitude of the Democratic gains became clear and an unfamiliar mood of jubilation overtook the staffers.
For Emanuel—ensconced in an office with friends and family—the board represented the culmination of two years' work. Every number reported the fate of a candidate he had helped recruit, cultivate and had come to know.
Televisions were scattered throughout the DCCC offices and common areas. At 11:08, CNN's Wolf Blitzer intoned, "We can now project that the Democrats will be in the majority in the House of Representatives."
Emanuel seemed momentarily dazed, hugging his brother Zeke and kissing Amy. Six minutes later, Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi, looking jittery and happy, walked from the room where she had been watching the returns into Emanuel's office.
He roared, "Fellas—Madame speaker!" Pelosi and Emanuel hugged, rocking gently together for a few seconds. Brian Wolff, a staffer who worked for both Emanuel and Pelosi, called out, "Mission accomplished!"
At that moment, Sen. Barack Obama, who had campaigned relentlessly for House candidates, called to offer congratulations. "Barack," Pelosi said. "Thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you did." She walked back to her office muttering, "I gotta call my brother."
As Pelosi made her way through the DCCC staffers, some applauded, then more joined in and everyone rose in a whooping standing ovation. "This is so much better than losing," a staffer said to no one in particular.
Emanuel walked out of his office into the ecstatic throng and hopped on a desk.
In a few minutes, in front of the cameras, he would strike a conciliatory note about his opponents, and in the days that followed he would stress how both parties needed to work together for what was best for the country.
But at that moment, Emanuel would not, could not censor his glee, or restrain his distaste for the defeated Republicans.
For weeks they had been boasting that their program for turning out voters in the campaign's final 72 hours would swamp all his work. The voters had made those statements look ridiculous.
"I'll tell you this," Emanuel shouted out to his staff. "The Republicans may have the 72-hour program. But they have not seen the 22-month program!
"Since my kids are gone, I can say it: They can go ---- themselves!"
Illinois Republicans - Melissa DeBartolo, Roselle
I strongly agreed with your Nov. 6 editorial to make two votes count and vote for integrity and merit in county and state government.
Apparently other voters didn't, but that is the beauty of democracy.
However, the Republican Party in Illinois itself didn't make the race count and has only itself to blame.
The lack of motivation, money or ability to mount a substantial campaign against a governor surrounded by corruption and a county board race based on nepotism and deceit is responsible for the defeat. The proud party of Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson is no longer about economic growth, fiscal and individual responsibility, and smaller government not beholden to special interests but a narrow social conservatism focused on fear and self-righteousness. The strong showing of Democrats has as much to do with voter disillusionment and apathy as the power of the Democratic machine.
There are many more moderate voters like myself who yearn for our party to speak to us again about the issues we care about. So when Republican leadership asks itself what went wrong, it shouldn't blame negative ads or machine politics. It needs only look in the mirror.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Sadly, Al Davis of Elmhurst urges Roskam to reject planks in the Republican platform
Time to go to work - Al Davis, Elmhurst
The election is over and I can finally, thankfully, recover my phone from the raging hordes of recorded messages.
On balance I'm content with the results.
I'm not a hardcore Democrat, nor am I a hardcore Republican, and I'm glad to be free of the tyranny of one-party rule.
Thank you, America.
At home, though, I'm still concerned.
I was very upset when U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) et al hijacked the Democratic primary in DuPage County last Spring, and I found myself unwilling to support congressional Democratic candidate Tammy Duckworth to any significant extent despite my concerns regarding Republican control of the government.
Now I have Peter Roskam to contend with, but I believe that he has the potential to be an acceptable choice in a multiparty government.
So, Mr. Roskam, I have a request to make.
Please, make me want to support you. Represent us here in Illinois.
Don't be a mindless minion of the Republican National Committee, and don't be the extremist that the Democrats nearly succeeded in labeling you. Show us that you are a man of integrity.
Reject the far right; allow women to make their personal choices, support the use of stem cells to advance medical science and protect America and Illinois from the environmental ravages of industry gone wild.
I gave serious consideration to voting for you, but my fear of continuing Bushism and my concerns over the extent of your conservatism prevented me from doing so.
But you have time to change my mind, and I'm open for it. Show me solid, moderate conservatism.
You will face a tough fight in two years; the margin of victory for Republicans in DuPage County has shrunk with every recent election.
But I can support you if you simply show some respect to the middle ground and the middle class.
I'm not content with merely being content at the outcome of our elections. I want to be happy.
Do yourself a favor, Mr. Roskam: Make it happen.
Thanks for your attention.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Lake County Republican Party Chairman Daniel Venturi fails to assure that Republican precinct committeemen collect campaign materials to distribute door-to-door; Republican Assembly of Lake County calls for Venturi to resign
Criticism hurled at Lake GOP leader - Bob Susnjara
A local conservative organization is calling for the resignation of Lake County’s Republican Party chairman, saying he’s a “master of disaster” trying to put a positive spin on poor results in last week’s elections.
Libertyville resident Raymond True, chairman of the Republican Assembly of Lake County, is taking aim at GOP boss Daniel Venturi, who is Lake Villa Township’s supervisor.
In a message e-mailed to Republicans after Tuesday’s elections, Venturi took responsibility for any missteps or failures by Lake County’s GOP branch. He said the party must prepare early for the Lake County state’s attorney and circuit court clerk elections in two years.
Sheriff Gary Del Re, state Senate candidate Suzanne Simpson and congressional hopeful David McSweeney were among the notable Republican losers.
“I am proud, however, of many things we did accomplish over the past 6½ months,” Venturi wrote. “We had a successful golf outing and picnic, which helped raise awareness and funds for the (GOP) central committee.”
True contends Venturi was a “master of disaster” who should quit as leader of Lake County’s Republicans. He said the GOP under Venturi’s leadership isn’t following long-held, conservative principles, unlike his Republican Assembly of Lake County.
True issued an open letter Thursday mocking Venturi for noting the success of the Republican fundraising events.
“To be such a simpleton as to suggest that a successful golf outing and picnic counts for anything in winning tough contests against a strong enemy like the Lake County Democrats is stupid beyond belief,” True said.
Venturi said Friday he’s never been supported by True, Libertyville political activist Jack Martin and others in the Republican Assembly of Lake County. He said the assembly is using Tuesday’s results as an opportunity to criticize his leadership.
“If you don’t agree with their principles,” Venturi said, “then you’re a bad Republican.”
True said Cuba Township Republican Chairman Thomas Gooch might be a good replacement for Venturi. He credited Gooch for getting a high number of Republicans to vote in Cuba Township.
For the most part, said True, Republicans lost the personal touch and fared poorly in turning out the vote. He said Venturi dropped the ball by not hosting an evening to have Republican precinct committeemen collect campaign materials to distribute door-to-door.
Venturi said the rift between the assembly and the Lake County Republican organization is a distraction, but he’s willing to meet with his critics to discuss differences.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: The Daily Herald, a newspaper that wants Democrats to win, puts its spin on Democrat victories in Lake County
Lake County is no longer sure GOP territory - Editorial
Safe Republican territory? That has pretty well described Lake County for decades, but not anymore. The wave of voter sentiment that on Tuesday gave Democrats control of Congress and every statewide office in Illinois rolled across Lake County, too.
For starters, Gov. Rod Blagojevich outpolled Judy Baar Topinka here, although by a smaller margin than in many other parts of the state. For sheriff, voters chose Democrat Mark Curran and showed Republican incumbent Gary Del Re the door. In the 31st state Senate District, Democratic Michael Bond defeated Suzanne Simpson, taking a legislative seat that Republican Adeline Geo-Karis had held for 27 years. When Bond takes his General Assembly seat, he’ll have plenty of company in the form of other Lake County Democrats, including Terry Link, Kathy Ryg, Karen May and Eddie Washington.
In U.S. House races, Democrat Melissa Bean won re-election in the 8th District, solidifying her party’s grasp on a seat that Republican Phil Crane had held for 35 years until Bean defeated him two years ago. And in the North Shore 10th District, Democratic newcomer Dan Seals threw a scare into Republican Mark Kirk, running within 1,400 votes of the three-term incumbent in the Lake County portion of the district .
Even at the county board level, where Republicans still enjoy a sizable majority, Democratic newcomers came within a whisker of upsetting GOP incumbents in two districts.
What does this strong Democratic showing mean? Part of it, undoubtedly, is related to the Democrats’ strong national showing and widespread dissatisfaction with national Republicans that rippled through races all the way down the ballot. Part of it can be explained by circumstances unique to a particular race that do not signal any trend. For instance, Del Re entered the election burdened by an official report highly critical of his department and by corruption charges against a couple of his former high-ranking managers. Simpson paid the price for Republicans’ bad judgment in allowing her to challenge Geo-Karis, a virtual institution, in the March primary. Stung by being pushed out before she could finish a distinguished legislative career on her own terms, Geo-Karis openly backed the Democrat in the general election.
Finally, part of the Democrats’ elation and Republicans’ worries this week stem from longer-term shifts in the suburban population that simply has a larger number of independents and Democrats as part of the electoral mix.
Does this mean that Republicans are finished here in Lake County and that Democrats will have clear sailing from now on? No. It means that smart Republicans will never take a seat or campaign for granted. It means, more than anything else, that elected officials from both parties will need to be aware of and responsive to constituents’ issues and concerns. And that’s not a bad thing at all.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: The Daily Herald, a newspaper that wants Democrats to win, puts its spin on why Lisa Madigan got more votes (167,778) than Topinka/Birkett (127,810) in DuPage County
Democrats who did win big in DuPage County on Tuesday - John Zimmerman
Guess who got the most votes, overall, in DuPage County on Tuesday? Your instincts might lead to you surmise it’s Judy Baar Topinka. That’s what you’d logically expect in a Republican stronghold like DuPage County.
And you would be wrong.
Topinka’s 127,810 votes weren’t enough to give her the title of top vote-getter.
So you say it’s Topinka’s running mate, DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett.
Perhaps. Birkett is a well-known, home-grown candidate who quite expectedly did very, very well in DuPage County in his unsuccessful bid for Illinois attorney general four years ago. Problem is, vote totals for the lieutenant governor candidates are not tallied separately.
So who did get the most votes in DuPage?
The person who defeated Birkett in 2002: Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
A Democrat got the most votes — 167,778 of them — in DuPage County on Tuesday.
Granted, voters knew little or nothing about Madigan’s Republican opponent Stewart Umholtz. And Madigan certainly didn’t suffer from lack of name recognition in her campaign.
Still, you would think Umholtz would have gotten more than 31 percent of the vote in DuPage County. In the 2002 elections, Kristine O'Rourke Cohn, also a lesser-known candidate — at least lesser known than her Democratic Party opponent for Illinois secretary of state, Jesse White — got 44 percent of the vote.
You say Topinka’s vote totals in DuPage would have been stronger in the absence of a third-party challenger that voters turned to in protest of their choices? But even if you give Green Party Rich Whitney’s 25,417 votes to Topinka, Madigan still comes out way ahead.
In fact, Topinka didn’t even finish second in the contest for top vote-getter. That honor went to Jesse White. He had 141,406 votes to GOP opponent Dan Rutherford’s 103,782.
The most popular candidates on Tuesday in DuPage, where the GOP has been around since the good Lord took his seventh day to rest, were both Democrats.
So what does this all mean?
Well, that Madigan and White are well liked and well known. That more Democrats are making their home in DuPage County. That the results might have been different if there were strong Republican challengers for statewide offices, a real problem these days for the state GOP.
Or that Democrats in DuPage County have some reason to cheer and have hope for the future in the wake of the Great Democratic Hope Tammy Duckworth losing to Peter Roskam.
I know one Democrat who has to have a smile on her face. Lisa Madigan. Especially if she has any serious thoughts about higher office. Like governor. It’s a pretty big deal, getting that much support in Republican DuPage County.
DuPage GOP leaders, on the other hand, might say don’t pay attention to those vote totals for Democrats for statewide office. Look, they’ll add, what we can do when there is a genuine threat to Republican dominance on the local level. The Democrats did everything they could to take the 6th Congressional District out of Republican hands. They fielded a pretty good candidate. They gave her lots of support. They gave her campaign lots of money. As far as I know, never before has a Democratic candidate for an office in DuPage County received this kind of backing from the national Democratic Party.
And Duckworth still lost. Not by much. But the bottom line is she lost. So did all Democratic candidates for DuPage County board and DuPage County Forest Preserve Commission.
Democrats will say Duckworth’s tiny margin of defeat is something to build on.
Republicans will say Duckworth’s loss is a knockout punch.
We’ll see in 2008.
Northwest suburbs part of him Rumsfeld has used area to launch political career and revitalize himself - Joseph Ryan
In the fall of 1963, Donald Rumsfeld was driving through Evanston when a 15-year-old drag racer sped past — a police cruiser giving chase.
The crew cut, 30-year-old suburban congressman didn’t pull over. He joined the pursuit.
The teen’s car soon died out in an intersection, and Rumsfeld, a champion college wrestler, leapt from his car to tackle the fleeing driver.
The take-charge attitude of today’s Defense Secretary Rumsfeld first hit the public stage in the tumultuous 1960s as he represented Chicago’s elite North Shore and the then-small towns of Arlington Heights and Palatine in Congress.
“He always put everything into it, just like a wrestling match,” remarks Phil Crane, who took over Rumsfeld’s House seat in 1969.
Raised in Winnetka and first elected to Congress at age 29 in 1962, Rumsfeld made an ambitious start in northwestern Cook County, sharpening his political acumen and relying on his trademark drive while yearning for more influence in the world.
Like many boy-who-left-home stories, the Rumsfeld who resigned his post last week amid mounting criticism of his handling of the Iraq war is not entirely the same Rumsfeld who represented the district in Congress. For instance, suburbanites didn’t see him as the conservative bogeyman he is made out by some to be today.
And yet much remains the same — like Vietnam, he is still supporting an increasingly unpopular war.
Regardless of politics and policies, his long-time supporters have always considered Rumsfeld well-built for a public life beyond the suburbs.
“He was always considered to be a rising star,” recalled Don Totten, former veteran Schaumburg GOP chairman and political pal of Rumsfeld in his early days. “That is what I always thought every time I talked to him.”
The star was born in Evanston in 1932, graduated from New Trier High School and paid his way through Princeton University on wrestling, academic and military scholarships. Rumsfeld married his high school sweetheart, Joyce, in 1954 and joined the Navy. He transferred to the reserves before embarking on a political career as an assistant to two Midwest congressmen.
The relatively young Rumsfeld was an underdog in the 1962 race when a well-known candidate fell out of favor over scandal, Totten said. But once in office, Rumsfeld quickly became the GOP establishment favorite.
Yet, it was his moderation that kept him in office for four terms, not zealous conservatism.
“In order to survive you couldn’t be a hard-line conservative in that district,” said Ed Murnane, who covered Congressman Rumsfeld as a Daily Herald political reporter. Murnane later worked as Crane’s assistant and now heads the tort reform lobby Illinois Civil Justice League. “I just don’t think Rumsfeld was ever that close to the right wing.”
As a congressman, Rumsfeld was also open to opposing views — a trait that might surprise some of even his current supporters.
The congressman conducted annual resident surveys, asking voters their positions on hot button topics like the Vietnam War. In one case, he received about 20,000 written responses.
A 1964 Daily Herald editorial endorsing Rumsfeld over a Democrat said, Rumsfeld “has not been afraid to correct his stand when convinced that he was in error.”
On the House floor, Rumsfeld voted for decidedly unconservative proposals like the 1964 Civil Rights Act and a plan aimed at ending migrant worker abuse.
But he gained recognition as a crusader against President Lyndon Johnson’s welfare initiatives. He also opposed mass transit funding and federal mandates on speed limits and seat belts.
At the same time, he took a keen interest in foreign affairs, visiting Vietnam and other hot spots across the globe.
By 1969, Rumsfeld’s drive was running into the wall of the U.S. House.
Virginia MacDonald, a volunteer in Rumsfeld’s campaigns who later became a veteran state lawmaker, said Rumsfeld confided to his supporters that the U.S. House wasn’t enough.
“You know there is so much to be done and I’m the kind of guy who wants to get right at things,” MacDonald said he told a group of female volunteers after a tour of the U.S. Capitol. “I didn’t realize the process was going to be this frustrating.”
MacDonald said it was clear Rumsfeld was angling to move on, and up.
“The pace wasn’t really as fast as he would have liked it,” she said from her Arlington Heights home Friday. “I think he was just anxious.”
That year, Rumsfeld’s opposition to Johnson’s War on Poverty won him a cabinet post under Richard Nixon, who sent him to dismantle the social programs.
His White House days were just beginning. Nixon soon moved Rumsfeld to head wage and price controls and made him ambassador to NATO in 1973.
“He knew a lot about a lot of different things,” Totten commented. “That caught a lot of people’s eyes.”
Gerald Ford made Rumsfeld his chief of staff and then appointed him defense secretary, where he ran the military for two years.
When the term ended, Rumsfeld came back home to Winnetka and lectured for a period at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He then headed a Skokie-based pharmaceutical company.
Rumsfeld, though, never left behind his influence on public policy, serving for two decades on various panels, commissions and think tank boards with direct lines to the Oval Office.
Still, Rumsfeld didn’t want his public office days to be over — he stood for a time at the edge of the mat waiting for his next match.
His best shot at elected office seemed to be back in his Northwest suburban base. State Republicans begged him to run against U.S. Sen. Alan Dixon, and he flirted with the idea.
In 1988, he came close to running for president.
While other candidates like Vice President George H. W. Bush were touring the country, Rumsfeld tested the waters in the Northwest suburbs. When the support wasn’t deafening — one local township Republican was already supporting another candidate — he pulled back.
Soon enough, he would ultimately be playing key roles in the White House again, managing two major Middle East wars that will ultimately define both his history and the country’s.
Rumsfeld made it clear in the Northwest suburbs that his stage was always bigger and it was his personal drive many first saw then that put him on that road.
As he told the Daily Herald in 1986, “If I were to define happiness, it is doing something important and useful to society as opposed to something frivolous and irrelevant, being centrally involved in it…”
Group issues Carpentersville mayor a challenge Carpentersville group wants discussion on illegal immigration - Larissa Chinwah
Members of the Fox Valley Citizens for Legal Immigration say they are tired of Carpentersville Village President Bill Sarto’s repressive treatment of discussions concerning illegal immigration.
Now, group leaders have strapped on their gloves and thrown down a challenge to the mayor: Hold a public discussion on illegal immigration.
The group, established to support Carpentersville trustees Paul Humpfer and Judy Sigwalt in their efforts to introduce an immigration-related ordinance in October, will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the VFW hall in West Dundee to officially announce the challenge.
“We are just trying to give our residents a chance to speak because Bill Sarto won’t,” Sigwalt said. “We are upset because he is denying people’s constitutional rights to free speech.”
Sarto said he would accept any challenge but said the group is misrepresenting his position.
“They might be surprised that I oppose illegal immigration.” Sarto said. “I don’t support it in any shape or form. We differ on who’s responsible and who has the resources to deal with it.”
In addition, Sarto said he questions the challenges objective.
“If they really wanted to get information out there, they should go to someone who has knowledge in the field,” Sarto said. “They can drag me into this and I will be willing to give them limited views on the subject.”
In a news release issued Friday, leaders of the Fox Valley group said, “We the people of the village of Carpentersville will not stand silent on this matter.”
“We are just tired of the lack of discussion and the fact that we cannot have a discussion,” Humpfer said.
Last month, the Carpentersville League of Women Voters canceled a discussion on immigration policy after Sarto wrote the Dundee Township Park District to voice his concerns over holding the event at the Senior Center in Carpentersville.
In an e-mail to League leaders, Sarto said “a rational discussion cannot be held on this very volatile subject.”
“We don’t need public forums that will pit one against the other, neighbor against neighbor,” Sarto said.
In addition, the public-comments portion of several recent village board meetings barred any remarks related to illegal immigration or the proposed ordinance. The board discussion was postponed after nearly 3,000 people crowded onto village hall grounds. The village had planned to hold a special meeting dedicated to the proposed ordinance once it could find an appropriate site to accommodate the large turnout expected to attend.
But last month trustees voted 4-3 to table the item indefinitely until pending litigation in towns like Hazleton, Pa., is resolved.
Sarto cast the deciding vote in the decision.
The news conference announcing the challenge is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday at the VFW Hall, 117 S. 1st St. in West Dundee.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Daily Herald, a newspaper that wants Democrats to win, blasts Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham
‘Won’t happen again’ doesn’t cut it in Kane - Editorial
Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham’s promises that “it won’t happen again” have grown tiresome enough, but the evidence is now convincing that the words flowing from his lips are untrue as well.
Worse, Cunningham’s inability to execute an election without the help of 16th Circuit judges is increasingly beginning to interfere with the basic voting rights of Kane County citizens.
In the spring, the error that caused disruption in a St. Charles school district referendum was limited to a small area and could be rather simply attributed to an unpredictable human error — keys locked inside a car.
Last Tuesday, though, the damage was more far-reaching when 62 polling places failed to open on time at 6 a.m. Some did not become operational until 10 a.m.
Election judges, it seems, had been given cell phones that either didn’t work or they didn’t know how to operate. And far too many apparently lacked the training or the wherewithal to set up and run the eSlate voting machines that are networked into Judge Ballot Control boxes.
Because he could not be sure at the time of his ruling just how many polling places had failed to open on time, Judge Keith Brown extended the voting hours until 8:30 p.m. in all 223 precincts under the direction of the county clerk’s office. That decision to keep all the polls open late is now being reviewed by the state Supreme Court.
One post-election published report quoted Ron Michaelson, the executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections for three decades before he quit three years ago, as saying the Kane polling place disaster was “pretty much unprecedented in Illinois.”
Given technicians did the Kane election machine setup last spring with far better results, we can only urge that judges either be given the necessary training, or that technicians versed in electronic voting be responsible for setup and operation. Given the depth of the problem and the absolute necessity of having polls that operate smoothly and on time, setup and testing before 6 a.m. seems a necessity that really should have been obvious.
When Cunningham’s office could not deliver vote results in a timely fashion several years back, the result was irritation, mostly by those of us in the media who wanted results instantly. He fixed that problem, but slow results don’t interfere with the basic right of citizens to vote in a fair election.
This does. And while there were complaints that race might have been a factor — many of the precincts with problems had large numbers of Hispanic voters — Cunningham’s election problems have been all over the map, with a new one popping up in a new location nearly every election. We frankly don’t believe his office is efficient enough to execute any “partisan manipulation,” as was suggested by some.
The Election Day adventures simply have to end, even if it comes at the price of speedy vote counting and public release of the results. Neither of those is as important as providing to voters easy, fair and accurate recording of their choices.
And, no, it isn’t often that we regret an endorsement quite this soon. But our endorsement of Cunningham, who had delivered a first-time electronic vote with but minor glitches in the spring, presumed the office would get better with every experience on the new electronic system, much as vote counting had. Instead it got worse, unacceptably worse.
DIERSEN HEADLINE: Daily Herald, a newspaper that wants Democrats to win, wants DuPage and Will County nicotine addicts to pay higher taxes
Cigarette tax OK — with conditions - Editorial
After years of cutting its property tax levy, the DuPage County Board is poised to raise your taxes. But only if you are a smoker. And only if the state gives DuPage County its permission.
DuPage County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom and his supporters are seeking approval of state legislation that would give county governments in Illinois the authority to tax cigarette sales, up to $2 a pack. Cook County is taxing cigarettes at that amount. It can do so without a change in state law because Cook County has home rule power. DuPage County does not and thus needs the legislature’s OK.
The new tax is being pitched as easy to accept, even benevolent. After all, it’s a tax on a nasty habit. And smokers don’t have to pay it. Just quit smoking. Even if smokers don’t quit, higher taxes make cigarettes so expensive that it discourages youngsters from taking up smoking.
All this is true. But it’s also true that a cigarette tax is the easiest and most political viable way for government to raise revenue. It’s still a tax, though, and it needs to be justified.
DuPage County would implement a $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes. The new revenue would fill an expected $50 million hole in the county budget and prevent cuts in vital programs.
Why such a huge projected deficit? Those series of cuts in the property tax levy contributed. There are fewer state dollars, even as there are more federal mandates. The county is also going to lose a huge revenue source. Next June, the county will receive its last allocation from the pool of $75 million in DuPage Water Commission funds that was transferred to the county by state law.
We, like Schillerstrom and his supporters, do not want to see cuts in vital public safety and welfare programs, such as hospital care for the poor, mental health treatment, testing of wells in an area where groundwater contamination is a growing problem, and investigation and prosecution of crime.
We also agree that the county is facing a host of new and costly programmatic challenges as the population grows older and more diverse.
And the county has made cuts in jobs and non-essential services in lean budget times.
But the county can do more to contain costs.
The county board was cut from 24 to 18 members in 1996. The county should look at cutting the size of the board even more. It is hard to imagine why 18 board members are needed when the area of their governance — unincorporated areas — is continually shrinking.
The county needs to seek changes in state law that would allow more people to conduct county business on the county’s Web site, thus requiring fewer personnel to handle walk-ins.
The board and chairman should rein in their salaries, which have escalated rapidly. The board should hold firm in seeking budget cuts from county departments.
And the county board needs to firm up its long-range financial planning so it’s not going from one crisis budget year to the next.
On those conditions, we have no problem with the state legislature, in the veto session, giving DuPage County the authority to tax cigarettes.
Disappointed with Roskam victory story - Elizabeth Bodett, Wheaton
I was deeply disappointed after reading Wednesday’s article regarding Peter Roskam’s win in the 6th Congressional District race. Aside from the horrible picture of Mr. Roskam on the front page, the article provides very few facts about election results. It reads more as a sob story for Ms. Duckworth, mentioning the loss of her legs three separate times and portraying her as a person who has “answered the call” despite all the attempts by Republicans to deface her.
No mention was made of Mr. Roskam’s many years of service in the Illinois House and Senate. Might I also add that there was plenty of dirt flung in Mr. Roskam’s face as well?
A newspaper has a public trust to deliver the facts and at least try to be unbiased. This article is better suited for the editorials, perhaps Ms. Pyke and Mr. Krol will take that into consideration next time.
An email from Lauzen
An email from Lauzen.
Number 3 is a balance. I think the solution there is Justice Scalia's position: "It is blindingly clear that judges have no better capacity than the rest of us to determine what is moral". Abortion, same-sex marriage, embryonic stem-cells research should all be decided in legislatures and not by courts. That makes sense and it's a stand that's unmistakable.
Here's the Senator's ideas,
1. "Allow us to vote" for our Republican Party leaders just like Democrats do and just like Republicans used to do before 1986. I sponsored and unanimously passed SB600 out of the State Senate in April 2005. I have waited patiently for House Republican Leaders to ask for a vote. Democrat Speaker Madigan and Majority Leader Currie have acquiescenced to allow a simple up-or-down vote in the House. I now call upon Representatives Tom Cross, Tim Schmitz, and Pat Lindner to use their House Republican Leadership power to call SB600 for a vote during Veto Session within the next three weeks.
How in the world can a Republican precinct committeeman ask a neighbor to help grow this party, if our leaders do not demonstrate enough respect for that person's opinion to allow them to vote for the equivalent of the party's board of directors? We're fighting a war in Iraq in part for this basic principle of democracy.
2. "Clean up our act" by prohibiting party leaders from working as paid lobbyists on the side. Although it's getting old to be reminded of George Ryan's crimes by a Governor who has been in power for four long years and has more federal investigations directed at his administration than Ryan had, Republicans should have no party leader or elected official who is using his or her political influence and inside information to enrich himself and his friends.
3. "Emphasize traditional values and sound policy principles" rather than being distracted by position and power. A solid majority of citizens and voters in this country believe that every innocent human life is a gift from God and should be protected by society from destruction. They recognize that less government means more freedom. We are confronted by bad people so we need strong national defense externally and conscientious public safety internally. And, a durable majority of hard-working people know that the strongest social unit in the world is the traditionally family. As another Illinois-born Republican Ronald Reagan said, "...now is the time to speak in bold, unmistakable colors, not in timid pastel shades."
What social conservatives have to remember is while many (if not most) agree, ...a durable majority of hard-working people know that the strongest social unit in the world is the traditionally family. It's an option no longer available for a growing number of single-parent lead households.
Further more of us are going to live the majority of our time alone. A majority of us will grow up in families that don't look traditional. Everyone will agree about the value of the traditional family, but many will not live in one.
It's that reality that in fact sparks much of this debate. It's a reality social conservatives are going to need to understand and learn to speak too, understanding that people live in realities, and not ideals.
The Republican position should be Scalia's: Judges shouldn't make these calls. That means legislatures do it and they need to be aware they shouldn't sound like Judges either.
A Look At Statewide Candidate Money Per Vote
Democratic candidates for statewide constitutional offices easily outpaced their Republican challengers in fundraising and translated that to a party sweep at the polls Tuesday.
Here is a look at how much the candidates raised in campaign cash, number and percentage of votes they received in unofficial results, and the estimated total they spent per vote if they spent all the money they collected, based on campaign finance reports the candidates have filed with the State Board of Elections:
GOVERNOR --Democrat Gov. Rod Blagojevich: $17.1 million; 1,649,330 votes (49.8 percent); $10.39 per vote --Republican Judy Baar Topinka: $6.2 million; 1,318,809 votes (39.8 percent); $4.68 per vote --Green Party Rich Whitney: $31,932; 345,431 votes (10.4 percent); 9.2 cents per vote
ATTORNEY GENERAL --Democrat Attorney General Lisa Madigan: $3.16 million; 2,400,504 votes (72.4 percent); $1.31 per vote --Republican Stewart Umholtz: $88,716; 806,580 votes (24.3 percent); 10.9 cents per vote
SECRETARY OF STATE --Democrat Secretary of State Jesse White: $2.43 million; 2,094,634 votes (62.6 percent); $1.16 per vote --Republican Dan Rutherford: $920,520; 1,110,855 votes (33.2 percent); 82.8 cents per vote
TREASURER --Democrat Alexi Giannoulias: $2.86 million; 1,747,804 votes (53.8 percent); $1.63 per vote --Republican Christine Radogno: $883,985; 1,343,583 votes (41.4 percent); 65.7 cents per vote
COMPTROLLER --Democrat Comptroller Dan Hynes: $1.31 million; 2,091,507 votes (64.1 percent); 62.7 cents per vote --Republican Carole Pankau: $191,474; 1,030,230 votes (31.6 percent); 18.5 cents per vote
Power Outage Vote aftermath: What lies ahead for the Fox Valley with Hastert done as speaker? - Matthew DeFour and Andre Salles
It's a short drive from the Aurora Municipal Airport to Rep. Dennis Hastert's office in Batavia, a trip Bob Rieser has made several times.
Earlier this year, the airport director's visit to the third most powerful politician in the country turned out to be worth $2.4 million.
That's the cost of a new instrument landing system for one of the airport's runways, which the city of Aurora paid for with a federal grant.
And Rieser got that grant, he said, by talking to Hastert's office directly, just one benefit of being so close to the speaker of the U.S. House.
Tuesday's election, however, changed all that.
With Democrats taking control of Congress, Hastert will relinquish his title in January, and there are rumors that he may retire sooner rather than later.
The 64-year-old Yorkville Republican immediately announced he would not seek a minority leadership role in the 110th Congress, indicating he instead would return to the "full-time task" of representing the district.
Hastert otherwise has remained silent on his future ambitions. His office declined to comment for this article.
Some local Republican circles have speculated the president could appoint Hastert to a higher office, maybe an ambassadorship, before his term expires. That could set up a special election to fill his vacancy, although it's really too early to know what Hastert intends to do.
It's also too early to know exactly what impact the loss of Hastert's influence could have on the Fox Valley.
But one thing is certain -- that influence has been a great benefit, funneling federal dollars to local projects that otherwise might not have received them.
The Hastert factor
Since taking office 20 years ago, Hastert has secured more than $400 million in federal funding for Fox Valley roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other public projects at the county and municipal levels.
The list of transportation projects includes $78.4 million for the Stearns Road bridge in Kane County and $207 million for the Prairie Parkway that could ease traffic congestion to the region.
Hastert has helped to secure $1.2 million to increase access to mental-health services in the juvenile justice system. He also helped to extend Metra rail service to Elburn with $5 million.
Although Hastert began working on many of the projects as a freshman congressman in the late 1980s, most of the major appropriations have come since he became speaker in 1999.
"I think our region certainly benefited greatly by his time as speaker of the House," Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said. "I would not expect as a local official that there's going to be much funding at all coming from the state or federal government beyond what's currently committed."
In 1990, Schielke was a member of Hastert's Fox River bridge siting committee. The group began planning for six bridges, three of which -- Sullivan, Stearns and Orchard roads -- are either complete or in the process of being built. Bridges on Red Gate Road near St. Charles and Bolz Road in Carpentersville are still "in the mix."
"That to me is a remarkable achievement in and of itself, in a time that government spending is in the crisis mode that it is," Schielke said. "Without him there and his seniority and his presence and position in Congress, I seriously doubt that a lot of that would have been accomplished."
Democrats take control
The Fox Valley federal funding bonanza could be coming to an end as Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., presumably becomes the nation's first female speaker of the House.
Democrats won the election on a platform of change, particularly the curbing of pork-barrel legislation.
"There's talk about earmark reform," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said. "Obviously, earmarks skyrocketed under the Republican Congress."
In Illinois, Republicans are concerned the Democrats will steer federal dollars back to their own districts and away from GOP strongholds downstate and in the Fox Valley.
State Sen. Chris Lauzen, R-Aurora, lamented Hastert's exit as speaker, along with Democratic pickups in the state Senate, as the "end of the two-party system in Illinois."
For at least the last four years, Lauzen believes, Hastert has been a check on Illinois Democrats hogging all the appropriations. The speaker was a "moderating influence," bringing in the big bucks on the condition that he had some oversight on how it was spent, he said.
"It's how it's allocated geographically," Lauzen said. "Hastert had a perspective of all of Illinois. Certainly he got his fair share, but he was like a monitor."
Lauzen to seek seat
Lauzen, who said he plans to run for Congress when Hastert eventually retires, also emphasized that the state Senate is now "veto proof" and can pass bonding legislation without a single Republican vote.
"The current Illinois administration is not known for its veracity," Lauzen said. "Especially when it comes to spending our money."
Illinois Democrats gained five Senate seats last week after Senate President Emil Jones invested millions of campaign dollars into suburban Chicago races. One of the winners in a previously Republican district was Kane County Board member Linda Holmes of Aurora, who countered Lauzen's argument, calling it a "scare tactic."
"I think the Chicago Democrats are smart enough to understand that if they pull everything, they're going to lose the Democrats in the collar counties," Holmes said. "I had so much support from Emil Jones. There's no way he's going to sabotage the work he did to get me here."
Impact on road projects
Holmes said she has spoken with Kane County Board Chairwoman Karen McConnaughay since her surprise election victory and intends to work with both Republicans to bring state dollars to the region.
McConnaughay has worked closely with Hastert and his office in her two years as chairman.
"One of the things I've found is he's incredibly patient and incredibly tenacious," McConnaughay said. "He never loses sight of what's important for his district."
McConnaughay said the region has seen shifts in the political landscape before, but losing the speaker will mean adjustments, particularly in how transportation will be funded.
"Transportation is very expensive, and it's very competitive across the country," McConnaughay said. "It will be more difficult to get transportation projects funded."
A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin's office said it was too early to know how specific projects would be funded in the future, but with Durbin becoming the second-ranked member of the new Senate majority, Illinois projects won't be neglected.
DuPage County seeking state OK to establish cigarette tax - Kathy Cichon
VILLA PARK -- With the clock ticking away until DuPage County officials must decide whether to approve a slashed budget to avoid a deficit, the board will make a last-minute appeal to the General Assembly for permission to impose a cigarette sales tax.
"There is no time to waste, and there is no reason not to pass this legislation that has so many positive benefits," said county board member Linda Kurzawa, R-Winfield, who also is president of the DuPage County Board of Health.
Echoing the county's plea are several DuPage human service organizations. During a recent news conference at Easter Seals DuPage and Fox Valley Region, all of those groups pledged support for legislation giving counties the right to impose such a tax. Touting the revenues it would generate, the groups also cited the health benefits.
"This legislation would significantly reduce tobacco use by Illinois residents -- primarily minors -- and save thousands of lives," said Chris Hensley, regional vice president of DuPage and Prairie Land regions of the American Cancer Society.
DuPage is facing a potential budget shortfall of about $50 million over the next two years without additional revenue or significant budget cuts. Last month, County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom, R-Naperville, presented the board with a budget that includes significant cuts, including the elimination of jobs.
Because DuPage is not a home-rule county, it cannot impose a cigarette tax without approval from state lawmakers. During the General Assembly's veto session -- which starts next week -- a provision will be introduced as part of Senate Bill 716 to allow nonhome-rule counties the ability to impose such a tax.
"For DuPage County, this is an appropriate area to raise revenue," Kurzawa said
If it passes, the county would have time to amend the proposed budget. Estimates by the county indicate a cigarette tax of $1 per pack could raise between $27 million and $40 million, which could restore some of the cuts presented in the budget draft.
The legislative veto session ends Nov. 30, which also is the deadline for the county board to approve its budget. That is why the matter is so urgent, she said.
Power shift will cost Illinois - Dan Rostenkowski
The personal and partisan elation Gov. Blagojevich and Mayor Daley undoubtedly felt about last week's election results were probably muted by a realization that Illinois will lose Washington clout when House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert relinquishes the gavel.
While the speaker was never overt in throwing his weight around to win federal funding for Illinois priorities, his influence was often felt and will be hard to quickly replace.
Despite increasingly bitter partisanship in recent years, the Illinois delegation has always managed to pull together to work for priorities set by our state's governor and often for those on Chicago's mayor's list as well.
When I chaired the Committee on Ways and Means, I had a similar responsibility, often salting away useful tax provisions (for projects ranging from Presidential Towers to new sports stadiums) or lobbying my colleagues on other panels (on issues such as funding Fermilab).
Those responsibilities ultimately became Hastert's. While the speaker cannot do things quite that directly, he has become the default "go-to" guy for Illinois projects during the Bush presidency.
However Republican congressional leadership races are decided, he won't be playing that role next year.
Who will step in and do the heavy lifting required to win approval for local projects now?
The power of our state's two senators will be enhanced by the election results. But the situation in the House may be more problematic. No newly empowered Democrat will have the clout Hastert had. It is unlikely that anyone from Illinois will chair a committee.
On the other hand, as Hastert's star has declined, Rahm Emanuel's has risen. As the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee who deserves ample credit for our party's sweep, he'll be a force to be reckoned with -- and perhaps a member of the incoming leadership.
Larger forces may have prevented Hastert from saving the Republican majority, but they provided an opportunity for Emanuel to create a Democratic majority, and he exploited it well.
He invested an enormous amount of his time, much of his apparently limitless energy and big chunks of other people's money on a series of artful gambles that translated into Democratic victories. Those of us in Illinois are painfully aware that not all of his picks, such as Tammy Duckworth in the 6th District, won, but enough did to change the balance of power.
Precisely how his successful bets will pay off -- in personal or regional terms -- remains to be seen.
While it is far too early to tell, it is possible the coming Congress will feature a renaissance of fiscal responsibility and a bipartisan effort to curtail earmarks in an effort to reduce the deficit. From a policy perspective, that's a goal I readily endorse.
But it could make winning support for local projects a whole lot harder.
As a Democrat -- and more importantly, a centrist -- I'm delighted with last week's election results and hope my former colleagues govern wisely and well.
But as a Chicagoan who's very sensitive to how helpful Washington can be in launching local projects, I fear that the next two years will be lean ones.
BEYOND OUTRAGEOUS: It's time to legalize marijuana in Illinois - Monroe Anderson
The war in Iraq loomed large last week as voters registered their disenchantment during the midterm elections. But lost in all the headlines and nightly news stories about the Republican loss of power were limited status reports on the other American conflict: the War on Weed. In Nevada, an initiative that would have legalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for anyone over 21 failed with only a 44 percent yes vote. Las Vegas -- where prostitution and gambling are legal and public intoxication common -- is not quite ready to end the prohibition of pot.
Nonetheless, what nearly happened in Vegas, should never stay in Vegas.
For at least two generations, smoking dope has become an American way of life. According to federal statistics, about 94 million Americans -- or 40 percent of 12-year-olds and up -- admit to having blown some weed; 15 million say they've had a joint within the last month. Eleven states have declared that the drug war has failed, passing laws that say, for adults, taking a toke is no longer a crime. In these states, from Oregon to Maine, from Alaska to Mississippi, holding a joint will no longer result in your sharing a cell with a murderer, rapist or larcenous CEO. Instead, you'll end up with something akin to a slap on the wrist or a ticket and a fine.
There are also 11 states that don't arrest those suffering from the side effects of chemotherapy or AIDS if they use marijuana to ease their pain. But not in Illinois. Despite more than 2-1 public support for medical marijuana legislation and endorsements from health groups, there was not enough support to pass Sen. John Cullerton's (D-Chicago) medical marijuana bill this month.
There is a huge body of evidence, argues Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, that marijuana prohibition today is working about as well as alcohol prohibition did in the Roaring '20s. In February, no less an authority than the U.S. Justice Department reported in its 2006 Drug Threat Assessment that "marijuana availability is high and stable or increasing slightly.''
The feds have been fighting marijuana since classifying it as a narcotic in the 1930s. Jealous that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was getting more press, Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics, started his campaign on cannabis by singlehandedly giving weed a bad rep. Back then, marijuana was the drug of choice for black jazz musicians and Mexicans -- a fact Anslinger was careful to note, pointing out that "it makes the Negro feel as if he is as good as the white man'' and that "all Mexicans are crazy and this stuff makes them crazy.''
Cannabis has been demonized in the nation since, while the desire for it has risen. From the time Anslinger managed to get the drug banned in 1937, Mirken said, use has gone up 2,000 percent.
That has created what Mirken describes as the drug-war-industrial complex, an entire industry from bureaucrats to law enforcement agencies to penal systems that are making money by keeping marijuana illegal.
In the past year, the pot prohibition has produced record devil-weed arrests and a bumper crop of American POWs in our nation's prisons. In 2005, there 786,545 marijuana arrests -- 696,074 just for possession. About 34,000 state and 11,000 federal inmates are incarcerated for marijuana offenses. We're spending $1 billion a year to put them there and another $8 billion a year to keep them there.
We could regulate, license and tax marijuana. Instead we blow billions on busting and jailing peaceful citizens from whom we could collect millions in tax revenue -- much like we do with alcohol.
For our nation's lawmakers to not grasp such a commonsense approach, you've got to wonder what they've been smoking.
ST. LOUIS POST- DISPATCH
Blagojevich may see mandate, but others see hurdles for his second-term agenda
SPRINGFIELD, ILL. — Emboldened by his easy re-election, Democratic Gov. Rod
Blagojevich will begin this week pushing a second-term agenda that takes a
more-of-the-same approach to his second term: more pay for minimum wage
workers, more health care and education spending, more creative new economic
But Republicans, further weakened by the Democrats' sweep, are predicting that
what may be in store under Blagojevich are more long-term financial problems
for the state, more negative campaigning in two years — and more of the kind of
political scandal that is starting to look endemic in Illinois.
The Legislature returns to Springfield on Tuesday for its six-day "veto
session,'' in which lawmakers consider action on gubernatorial vetoes and other
issues. Blagojevich said in a speech in Wood River last week that he intended
to launch immediately into one of the issues that helped him win on Tuesday:
upping the state's minimum wage, already above the national rate, by another
$1, to $7.50.
Whether he can get that and other goals started now — or if he will have to
wait until his second term formally begins in January with a new, more
Democratic Legislature — he has made it clear he intends to continue the kind
of activist, progressive social and economic initiatives that partly defined
his first term.
He is talking less about what critics say is the financial recklessness that
also defined that term, with the state backloading its pension debt, using
long-term borrowing to pay short-term bills and leaving many bills late or
"(Democrats) certainly did well in this election, … but they have to be
careful," said state Sen. Frank Watson, R-Greenville, the Senate's GOP leader.
"Democrats are known to do things that could swing the pendulum back the other
way.'' His party lost five state Senate seats on Tuesday, which will give the
Democratic majority there the power to pass virtually anything it wants without
"Sometimes, they don't seem to be able to help themselves,'' said Watson, who
predicted an avalanche of "new programs and new spending'' even as the state's
Medicaid backlog and other unpaid bills pile up. "The governor cannot continue
to promote this kind of financial irresponsibility.''
Blagojevich also is talking less than he did the first time around about
reining in Illinois' no-holds-barred campaign finance system — a system that
allowed him to raise more than $20 million in the election, much of it from
corporations that do business with the state.
A campaign reform group is asking Blagojevich to unilaterally halt his own
fundraising. The group is part of a growing chorus of voices that say it's time
for Illinois to put the brakes on the unlimited fundraising that has been at
the center of multiple scandals.
Even former GOP Gov. Jim Edgar — long an opponent of proposed campaign
fundraising limits — said Friday that he was "reassessing my whole thought on
this'' after watching Blagojevich swamp Republican challenger Judy Baar Topinka
with an $18 million negative-ad television blitz that many say drowned out any
substantive discussion of issues. "Something probably has to be done,'' Edgar
Tuesday's victory opens a new chapter in what has already been an unlikely
political tale for Blagojevich, 49, the son of a Yugoslavian immigrant.
Blagojevich had served relatively anonymous terms as a Chicago state legislator
and congressman before landing at the center of the state's political scene in
2002, becoming the first Democratic governor in more than two decades.
Some of his first-term campaign promises were quickly implemented, such as his
vow to raise the state's minimum wage, which went to $6.50 from the base
federal standard of $5.15. He also followed through on initiatives for
guaranteed health care and early education.
However, his promise to restore trust in honest government after the
scandal-ridden tenure of ex-Gov. George Ryan arguably hasn't happened. The U.S.
Attorney's Office in Chicago has alleged in several indictments that people
around Blagojevich have engaged in the same kinds of fundraising, procurement
and hiring shenanigans that brought down Ryan's administration.
Nonetheless, Blagojevich won re-election this year largely by running against
what one political expert called "the ghost of George Ryan'' (who is still
alive and slated to start a six-year federal prison term in January).
Blagojevich ran television commercials showing old footage of Topinka and Ryan
at political events, including a now-famous shot of a polka they danced
To some, it was an ironic strategy for Blagojevich, given his own
administration's problems this year. The U.S. attorney's office has alleged
that Blagojevich's top fundraiser and others used their clout to try to squeeze
state contractors for political donations. Blagojevich hasn't been accused of
wrongdoing, but the widespread belief that his administration is under a
federal magnifying glass these days has been the one shadow over Tuesday's
"I think there are an awful lot of Democratic politicians who would probably
pass if Rod Blagojevich asked them to dance the polka,'' Kent Redfield of the
Institute for Legislative Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield
said in a panel discussion on Friday.
Also in that Springfield political panel, Edgar, the former Republican governor
and a key Topinka supporter, predicted that the negative tenor of the campaign
set an example for future politicians of how to win in Illinois. "We're going
to see a lot more negative commercials in the next election,'' he said.
"Negative commercials won the election.''
Blagojevich has also promised since before his first term not to raise taxes,
and he continues to reject all talk of higher sales or income taxes. Critics,
though, say he bent that promise with state fee increases on businesses and
other targeted areas in his first term.
Much of Blagojevich's seemingly paradoxical achievement — initiating expensive
new programs in tight budget times without general tax increases — was
accomplished with those fee increases, as well as one-time revenue boosts such
as the restructuring of the state's pension debt, state payroll cuts and the
gathering up of unused cash from various state funds.
Some observers point out that Blagojevich hasn't indicated he's going to stop
pushing costly new social programs, yet he may be running out of creative new
ways to fund them.
"What he's going to be faced with is a budget situation worse, in some ways,
than the one he faced before,'' said Chris Mooney, a political scientist at the
University of Illinois at Springfield. "He's already gone through the couch
The Legislature returns to Springfield for its veto session Tuesday through
Thursday, then again on Nov. 28-30.
BELLEVILLE NEWS DEMOCRAT
Blagojevich-$10/vote, Topinka-$5/vote, Whitney-$.09/vote: Blagojevich's cash campaign prompts renewed calls for reform - Ryan Keith
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - In the governor's race, money meant everything to Gov. Rod Blagojevich, nothing to Rich Whitney and not nearly enough for Judy Baar Topinka.
Blagojevich used a huge campaign war chest to easily beat Topinka and Whitney in Tuesday's election.
In fact, if the candidates spent all $23 million they reported raising for the race, Democrat Blagojevich's total comes out to more than $10 a vote - dwarfing Republican Topinka's $5 per vote and Green Party candidate Whitney's mere 9 cents a vote.
Even so, the spending paid off for the governor.
Blagojevich, who spent a huge chunk on a barrage of unflattering television ads aimed at Topinka, won with 49 percent of the vote to Topinka's 40 percent, while Whitney came in with about 10 percent, according to unofficial returns.
Despite trailing by a huge margin, Whitney boasted that he definitely got the "biggest bang for the buck" with his campaign.
And now that the big spending is over, campaign reform groups say it's time for Blagojevich and other candidates to more closely follow Whitney's frugal approach.
They're urging the governor, fresh off his victory, to respond to public disgust with campaign mudslinging by zeroing out his big bank account and pushing spending limits he proposed last year.
"This is absolutely the right time to discuss this," said Cindi Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. "We know that when the governor puts his mind to it, he can use his soapbox very, very effectively."
But getting Democrats to change a system that has treated them well could be a challenge.
Besides governor, big money also helped Democrats win the four other statewide constitutional offices.
Democratic incumbents for attorney general, comptroller and secretary of state all had about 3-to-1 fundraising advantages and won easily, while Democratic newcomer Alexi Giannoulias bested his Republican challenger in the treasurer's race in both cash and votes.
Democrats also added to their majorities in the state House and Senate, potentially justifying the more than $1 million raised in 10 or more legislative races, a record.
"Since the Democrats seem to have sucked up the lion's share of money statewide, I'm not sure they'll be in much of a mood to change the system because it really favors them," said state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale.
Canary and her supporters say that's why the governor's involvement is crucial.
In May 2005, Blagojevich proposed sweeping ethics rules that would apply many federal campaign finance limits at the state level.
He wanted to limit how much individuals and political parties could donate, bar corporations and unions from giving money directly and put new restrictions on lawmakers and lobbyists.
Republican critics derided the plan as simply a Blagojevich political stunt, proposing the idea to gain public favor but never really pushing for it to pass. They also said he should give back millions of dollars he collected in what they called "tainted" money because of questions raised about contributions and fundraising practices.
Canary said the governor's lack of follow-up is disappointing, but reform groups hope they can persuade him to push his measure now that the election is over.
"I think that the powers that be will be hearing from the voters," Canary said. "It's not going to go away."
Blagojevich spokeswoman Sheila Nix said the governor stands behind his proposal and will continue to push for its passage, either in the fall legislative session that starts this week or in future sessions.
Nix said Blagojevich, though, can't be expected to carry the measure alone.
"We would hope that the groups would get down to the Legislature and start lining up the votes and we can go from there," Nix said. "I think it might be good if they had feedback from people."
Finding support could be a big obstacle.
Legislators from both parties say they know voter discontent is growing over negative campaigning and allegations of corruption in campaigns and government. But they believe pressure has to grow to prompt any action.
"What's striking is that the same issues that seemed outrageous in past election cycles have only gotten worse," said Rep. John Fritchey, D-Chicago. "Until there's a sufficient public outcry, it will be tough for us to find additional support for this in Springfield."
CONSERVATIVE PRESIDENT 2008
John Cox Reacts to Midterms
Four candidates for President told The Conservative President 2008 what there reaction to Tuesday's election results in the House and Senate and how they thought it would effect the 2008 Presidential election.
Republican John Cox: "This election validated what I have been saying for the past ten months all over the country. Republicans have not been acting like Republicans and have not been adhering to the principles of our party, the principles of Ronald Reagan. Just as the party responded after the 1976 loss to Jimmy Carter, we will reform our party around those principles that define us; fiscal responsibility, strong defense and traditional values. We must do more than merely mouth the words, we must lead with policies that effectuate solutions that reflect those principles and that address the challenges the public wants to have addressed.
This result will definitely impact the 2008 election. The public spoke - they are tired of the money seeking, power seeking career politicians. They are looking for positive solutions; they demand integrity, fiscal discipline and a resolution in Iraq. They reject arrogance and wish to see the US promote opportunity and hope for Americans as well as all people of the world. They don't want to see Americans die in battle but do want the best defense we can provide. They want our values defended but do not want partisan attacks and division. They absolutely insist on border security and enforcement of the law to address the immigration crisis.
The celebrities running in 2008 are in for a rude awakening. The public wants substance and action, not sound bites. My experience in the private sector and in politics will be attractive. The experience of the successors to three governors planning presidential bids has to hurt their prospects. The low regard for Congress has to impact any US Senator or Congressman planning to run. Former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani has name recognition but is out of sync with the social conservative wing of the party.
Conservatives, who still form the base of the Republican party; they will appreciate my humble roots as I represent the small businesses that have built this country and create the jobs and economic growth we enjoy. I represent the American Dream and that is the vision of the Republican party we need in 2008."
A few -- very few -- GOP bright spots - Fran Eaton
Over the next couple of weeks, Illinois Review is sure to see posting after posting analyzing what went wrong with the 2006 Election. It's typical human nature to point and play the blame game. It's healthy to analyze and try to figure out what can be changed.
As part of the analysis, I'd like to point to some ideas that I believe were the bright spots of this past election -- things that may have been overlooked and whose long term positive effects may not be noticed for a while.
Forgive me if we sound proud, but one of the most obvious is Illinois Review. Here we have an array of wonderful thinkers and writers who volunteer their time and talents to inform Illinois conservatives statewide as to what's happening. Soon to celebrate one year of being the state's conservative crossroads, Illinois Review's readership has grown exponentially over the past year, without the expensive daily newsletters and websites so many of the more established and well-funded groups enjoy.
Our venue for opinions and news has moved quickly into the enviable position of being the state's premiere conservative blog in just one short year. That's something to crow about.
Secondly, conservatives throughout the state took on the thankless but productive job of registering values voters. Below the glitz and glamour of big rallies and hot air speech-making, a small core of diligent warriors sat in church lobbies, petitioned pastors and parishioners to update their voter records and talked with new voters about the importance of voting.
It made a difference, especially in the Roskam victory. That's something to brag about, too.
But the one project that stands out as the most positive and focused is the United Republican Fund's "Six in '06". The URF has been smothered for years as a behind-the-scenes and name-only organization, one of many whose purpose and mission was fogged by misdirection.
This election, amid the screeds and hyperbole coming from other sections of the conservative ranks, the URF made a brilliant decision to seek the high road. The organization chose to promote quality down-ticket candidates rather than demoralize more the rank-and-file Republicans who had already overwhelmingly rejected the party's eventual gubernatorial candidate.
The Six in '06 panel of candidate picks -- from young Aaron Schock to Will County lady Terri Ann Wintermute to rough-and-tough scrapper Jeff Richey to mainstream good guys John Cavaletto and Ernie Russell to African-American conservative spokesman Eric Wallace -- were top notch and a glimpse into the quality of Republicans we have around us in Illinois.
The URF, frankly, showed leadership in this effort that the state party did not. They showed creativity, a sense of humor, energy and focus not demonstrated elsewhere. They raised an astounding $85,000 for these candidates, an amazing feat for a first time effort and in such a demoralized political climate.
That's the third bright spot and hopefully, one of many more to come. Smart Republican conservative hopefuls for 2008 should do what they can to become part of what should be the "8 in '08" -- just two years away.
Congratulations to the URF and its leadership -- Turtlewax's Denis Healy, retiring State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, Exec Dir Dennis LaComb and other board members -- for an exemplary effort with class and dignity.
There's a few bright spots in the aftermath, folks. It would be smart for the financiers to pay attention to the good ideas we saw and invest in them. It would be smart for the grassroots to latch on to a positive and productive projects and begin the rebuilding process there.
We'll do our best here at Illinois Review to keep you informed along the way. Stay tuned and visit often.
The Lefts' True Colors - John Ruskin
(11/11/06) Drudge reported today that Leftist spokesman/entertainer Elton John declared that he would "ban religion completely."
Noted the Drudge Report: 'Sir Elton John wants religion banned completely -- because he believes it promotes hatred of gays.
Speaking to the Observer Music Monthly Magazine the singer said religion lacked compassion and turned people into "hateful lemmings".
The PRESS ASSOCIATION reports: In a candid interview for a dedicated Gay issue of the magazine he shared his views on topics as varied as being a pop icon to Tony Blair's stance on the war in Iraq.
He said there was a lack of religious leadership, particularly in world politics, and complained that people do not take to the streets to protest any more.
Sir Elton said: "I think religion has always tried to turn hatred towards gay people. Religion promotes the hatred and spite against gays.
"But there are so many people I know who are gay and love their religion. From my point of view I would ban religion completely.
"Organised religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into really hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate."
He added: "The world is near escalating to World War Three and where are the leaders of each religion? Why aren't they having a conclave? Why aren't they coming together?
"I said this after 9/11 and people thought I was nuts. Instead of more violence why isn't there a meeting of religious leaders?
"It's like the peace movement in the Sixties. Musicians got through to people by getting out there and doing peace concerts but we don't seem to do them any more.
"If John Lennon were alive today he'd be leading it with a vengeance," he said.
Sir Elton said people were too busy blogging on the internet to go out onto the streets to stand up for what they believed in.
"They seem to do their protesting online and that's not good enough. You have to get out there and be seen to be vocal, and you've got to do it time and time again.
"There was a big march in London when Britain decided to join the war against Iraq and Tony Blair is on the record as saying 'the people who march today will have blood on their hands'. That's returned to bite him on the ass," he said.
Sir Elton compared his place in British culture with that of the Queen Mother's.
He said: "People come to me and I'm a bit like the Queen Mother. I never get those problems. I don't know what it is with me, people treat me very reverently.
Referring to his "wedding" to long-term partner David Furnish, he said: "It was the same when Dave and I had our civil union - I was expecting the odd flour bomb and there wasn't.
"Dave and I as a couple seem to be the acceptable face of gayness, and that's great."
He pledged to continue to campaign for gay rights saying: "I'm going to fight for them whether I do it silently behind the scenes or so vocally that I get locked up.
"I can't just sit back; it's not in my nature any more. I'm nearly 60-years-old after all. I can't sit back and blindly ignore it and I won't."
Keyes-1,390,690, Topinka-1,332,755 - Jim Leahy
After all we have heard from the "moderates" about Judy being the only electable Republican she recieved less votes than Alan Keyes!
Keyes recieved 1,390,690
JBT recieved 1,332,755
This better be the last time I hear a "party person" tell us to moderate our stand's. Hear that Jim Edgar and Ray Lahood?
Posted By: Jim Leahy