Saturday, October 29, 2005

Churchill: Taking It As It Comes

The name has a peculiar sounding resonance-for more reasons than one. A multitude of theories have predicted the demise of US Rep Melissa Bean, but the identity of the person to do it remains unclear Today at a function in Yorkville, in response to a question from Obiter Dictum, Speaker Hastert professed confidence that the seat could be retaken, identifying the 8th as the "most Republican district in Illinois." (On Crane's loss he said, "The energy wasn't there.")Call me a determinism, but it seems a lot easier to talk about her ability to lose than it is Wednesday morning. If Rep. Bob Churchill succeeds in his bid to unseat Melissa Bean, he would join Tim Johnson as an alum of former minority leader and speaker Lee Daniels's leadership team. (Prior to his election to the US House of Reps, Johnson was Deputy Majority Leader. From 1994 to 1996, Churchill was Majority Leader.) He possesses many of the qualities ascribed to a stereotypical US Rep circa 1955, personal wealth, career in the legal field, veteran of state legislature, and hubris, hubris, hubris.

Churchill is, in many respects, the Illinois House's most lovable loser. Far from perfect, he almost seems to revel in his flaws. After the coup, he paid the price in credibility from the years he spent as Lee's bay-otch(and general counsel, or are they the same thing?).The once majority leader was reduced to fighting Cross any way he could-losing a lot of self respect in the bargain. This call came on the heels of his embarrassing 1998 primary defeat to fellow northwest suburbanite Al Salvi in the SOS race, despite Churchill's advantages in funding and establishment support. In short, Churchill has the ability to stare down odds tremendously in his favor-and lose.

Churchill ran opposed in the 2002 primary, and was held to 70% by Fernando Salazaar. Salazaar was the recipient of $35,000 from Personal PAC, presumably an attempt to weaken Churchill for a general election race against Elman(in which she was unsuccessful). It was then that he seemed to have first earned the appellation "most conservatve member of the Illinois House"-an epithet that has followed him ever since, for better or worse. In 2004, Churchill was also reduced to fighting for his seat in a narrow victory against the same opponent having grudgingly accepted Leader Cross's support. Churchill's votes against the governor's successful proposal to mandate insurance coverage of mammograms came back to haunt him-and enabled Elman to paint him as a coldly calculating social conservative who is insensitive to women's health: which is exactly what he is. Churchill's appeal lies not in charisma or guile, but in the fact that he is, like anyone else, a deeply flawed human being.He is also the possessor of some slightly more redeeming qualities: i.e. a fortune from the family law firm, experience as a legislator and member of the Pardon and Appeals Board, and, for lack of a better word, mad skills. (He said it himself:"What I bring to the race is experience.") No more, no less. And, for a future US Representative, that isn't a bad start.


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