January 29, 2005


LaHood looks good for governor (THOMAS ROESER, January 29, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

Whenever an ocean liner approaches a harbor, it calls for a seasoned pilot who knows the eddies and secret channels to come and steer the ship into port. In the House of Representatives (where I served as a staffer years ago with another unknown named Don Rumsfeld), when passage of legislation runs into trouble, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert calls on a sage master of parliamentary procedure to guide the craft to passage. That pilot is usually Ray LaHood, a beetle-browed 59-year-old Lebanese Catholic, pro-life five-term member from Peoria. LaHood can be warm and ingratiating but also abrasive with the gavel. The other night during inauguration festivities, he had the gavel at the Illinois State Society and tried to get the crowd to calm down. Most of the crowd was circulating around Illinois' rock-star senator, Barack Obama, and Obama wasn't about to dissuade them.

''Sen. Obama,'' LaHood rasped in a voice that silenced the group, ''if you want people to listen to you when you are up here, you should probably listen while other people are trying to speak.''

Obama, chastened, shut up.

These days Ray LaHood is taking time away from his 18th District, where he won with 70 percent of the vote in November, to explore a run for governor. His experience in monitoring the House for his old boss Bob Michel has won him acclaim under Hastert with gilt-edged committee assignments: appropriations, budget and intelligence. But he's a rebel, one of only three GOP members to balk at signing Newt Gingrich's Contract with America (because it put tax cuts ahead of budget balancing), and the first to attack Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (purportedly for insulting Hastert, but also for not supporting public works goodies for Illinois that the delegation had approved). LaHood declared publicly he was looking around for someone to run against Fitzgerald (that someone was Andy McKenna, the multimillionaire paper company executive who is now state GOP chairman). Later, LaHood warned publicly that Rep. Phil Crane was in trouble because he wasn't working hard enough. (LaHood was right; Crane lost to Melissa Bean). [...]

[A]ll things being equal he's an excellent campaigner. Talking with him is like breathing pure oxygen after working in a salt mine. His social instincts are excellent, and his rebellious nature might just be what Illinois needs. Yes, he needs a crash course in Chicago. Knowing him, he'll get on it pronto. We need a good pilot for this leaky ship of state. Gov. LaHood sounds good.

A strong run by Mr. LaHood would be particularly important because--if some top of the head calculations are accurate--IL is one of only five states where Democrats hold the big three (governor and U.S. senators) statewide elected offices. It's important for the GOP to drive home the permanent nature of the realignment by reducing these last bastions (IL, WA, DE, NJ, WV).

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 29, 2005 10:34 AM

And in both New Jersey and Washington, the Dems have resorted to electoral subterfuge to maintain that status.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at January 29, 2005 12:31 PM

Republicans would have a better time in Illinois if they would run somebody who wasn't a crook (Ryan), and if they didn't oppose somebody who wouldn't go along with the crooks (Fitzgerald).

Posted by: ray at January 29, 2005 12:33 PM

To are everlasting shame, you need to add Wisconsin to the list.

Posted by: D. Woolwine at January 29, 2005 12:33 PM

To our everlasting shame, you need to add Wisconsin to the list.

Posted by: D. Woolwine at January 29, 2005 12:34 PM

It would help if Delaware had a Republican party that wasn't mired in the Nixon era. The state house GOP from the Wilmington area spends its time trying to pass a gay-rights bill (over the objections of Democrats from downstate, who control the Senate and have killed the bill several times now despite the governor's support). Their issue of the month has been opposing a package of pay raises for state employees, including the governor and LG, which seems merely petty, but also for state judges (who currently earn less than kids straight out of law school at my firm, even though some of them are nationally prominent).

I work with a guy who ran unsuccessfully for an upstate state house seat in 2002. His big issues then and now were throwing more money at the public schools, severely restricting new development in the county and a state-funded health insurance scheme. I work with another guy who managed an unsuccessful state senate campaign in 2000; his big issue is environmental protection, and he hates Dubya because of the arsenic-in-the-water stuff. These gents are the face of the GOP in northern Delaware.

Posted by: Random Lawyer at January 29, 2005 12:41 PM

Add Michigan, too. (Vermont gets off on the technicality that their Democrats call themselves independents.)

Posted by: Lee at January 29, 2005 12:44 PM

Thanks for MI & WI. VT has a Republican governor.

Posted by: oj at January 29, 2005 1:05 PM

LaHood, concerned with looting the treasury for goodies for local interests and with economic sophistry like balanced budgets when growth is needed, is far more part of the problem than part of the solution. His association with the lamebrained Bob Michel is proof-positive that he is fruit of the poisonous tree.

Posted by: Bart at January 29, 2005 1:10 PM

W won WI.

Posted by: Sandy P at January 29, 2005 3:17 PM

W won WI.

Posted by: Sandy P at January 29, 2005 3:17 PM

W won WI.

Posted by: Sandy P at January 29, 2005 3:17 PM

Bart has it right (on LaHood - not IQ)

He is an apologist for public education and George Ryan. He stabbed Peter Fitzgerald in the back, and will be as big a spender as any.

Sadly we have no really good choices here. For the principled conservative, Rauschenberger is the best bet.

With no "rock star" IL is another 6 years away from possible salvation.

Posted by: bb at January 30, 2005 4:26 PM

The Republicans in Illinois committed suicide. Their last Govenor went out in a blaze of coruption and tried to cover it up by commuting all of the sentences on death row. I still think Jack Ryan could have stayed in the race, run a decent campaign and maybe even have won.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 1, 2005 4:04 AM