Thursday, July 22, 2010

Can Jan hang on?

Joel Pollack took down Rep. Barney Frank. Can he hold his own with another liberal House stalwart? After just two different Members of Congress represented the Ninth District in the House over the last 62 years,* the District could certainly use "A Fresh Start."

The polls report the president's approval ratings have fallen sharply. More seriously, a majority of Americans no longer trust the president to make major policy decisions. That's not the type of person Americans typically vote to re-elect.

Concerns about skyrocketing debt, the possibility of higher taxes and a Big Government takeover of health care and so much more would naturally lead to a year with big Republican gains in Congress.

How does this voter unrest translate to the Ninth District of Illinois?

Rep. Jan Schakowsky's most loyal voters, who already voted for her six times, love Big Government. They love higher taxes. They love entitlement spending. They love taxpayer-funded abortions. They love gun bans. They love unions. They love federal spending on the arts, as if the arts were at all the federal government's business. Some of them love sticking it to Israel.

So the Republican Party's alternate message may not resonate with many Ninth District voters. These voters' active dislike of conservatives may be so strong that they will vote to re-elect the Congresswoman just to annoy Republicans. Furthermore, Rep. Schakowsky does a masterful job of portraying herself as the underdog (a six-term incumbent loaded with campaign cash? Some underdog!) fighting the good fight against those bad Republicans and their "far right-wing agenda." This goes on even as her husband goes to prison for a check-kiting scheme. Putting fear into the minds of voters may will result in a surfeit of fund-raising cash and a seventh term in office.

In 1996, a great year for Democrats with a big re-election win for President Bill Clinton, Joe Walsh ran against 87-year-old Ninth District Rep. Sidney R. Yates. This was Yates' first serious opposition in 14 years. He was so concerned about losing his precious seat he flew to his home District to campaign and ended up winning re-election by eight points.

With almost no money and a loosely organized campaign force of volunteers, Walsh had Yates thinking about retirement. (Walsh is now running against Rep. Melissa Bean in Illinois' Eighth District. Yates retired in 1999 and died in 2000.) Could Joel Pollack close that eight-point gap? Stay tuned.

*Sidney R. Yates 1949-1999. Another member served 1961-63. Jan Schakowsky 1999-present.

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