GOP candidate chosen for 11th district

April 30, 2008 4:32:51 PM PDT
Several congressional seats currently held by Republicans will be up for grabs in the November election. After losing former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's district in a special election last month, the GOP hopes to hold onto the 11th district seat being vacated by Jerry Weller.

In Will County Wednesday, Republican officials nominated a well-known businessman to take on Democrat Debbie Halvorson in the race for the 11th district congressional seat.

Marty Ozinga III is a well-known figure in Chicago construction circles who runs a third-generation concrete supply business that is among the biggest of its kind in the United States.

Republican officials gave him the nod Wednesday because their previous candidate, New Lenox mayor and Chicago Ridge police chief Tim Balderman, dropped out after winning the primary in February. Why he made that choice and what qualifies Ozinga to run in his place were questions to be answered Wednesday.

They're as common a site as construction cranes around Chicago the candy-striped cement mixers of Ozinga Brothers, Inc. Marty Ozinga loves to drive them.

"I'm a great truck driver and I really enjoy it," Ozinga said receiving laughs. "It's not funny!"

And neither is his slogan for this campaign -- a slam on elected officials such his opponent for the 11th congressional seat -- whose support of Gov. Rod Blagojevich is scorned.

"When he wanted to raise taxes, who did he look toward? He looked to Debbie Halvorson," said Andy McKenna, Illinois Republican Party.

The party picked Ozinga to run in November after February's primary winner, Balderman, got out of the race. He says he couldn't run and serve in his dual role as Chicago Ridge police chief and New Lenox mayor at the same time. The incumbent, retiring Republican Weller, was dogged by ethics issues involving real estate deals offshore.

And Ozinga Brothers was named in a newspaper investigation three years ago that alleged the company set up sham subsidiaries to take advantage of affirmative action laws. It was never charged, and Ozinga maintains he was doing right.

"We worked very hard to generate and produce jobs and opportunities for the Roseland and Pullman communities in the South Side of Chicago," said Marty Ozinga, (R) Congressional candidate.

Sources have speculated that Balderman got out because Republican prospects in the rapidly growing 11th district, which includes all of Grundy County and the central and southern portions of Will County, are poor, and Democrat Halvorson has a lot of money for the general election. Republicans are determined, however, to fight for the seat.

"Mr. Ozinga was just chosen in the back room of the Republican Party insiders, and I welcome him to the race. But he has a lot of questions to answer," said Eric Adelstein, Halvorson Campaign Advisor.

Ozinga is pledging to spend no more than $350,000 of his own money in a campaign that his aides say will probably cost at least $3 million.

And Illinois Republican McKenna says the party is wants to win in this suburban district, especially after Republican Jim Oberweis lost in the 14th district to Bill Foster. He says the key from that race is to campaign on a positive basis because that's what voters everywhere want.

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