14th Congressional district voting approaches

January 17, 2008 3:20:48 PM PST
The watchword this election season is change--and it's coming from candidates in both parties faced with as many as three elections this year in Illinois' 14th Congressional District. They're vying for former Republican HOUSE Speaker Dennis Hastert's seat, which has been in Republican hands for decades. For voters in the 14th District, primary day will require lots of concentration.

Voters in the 14th District will actually get two ballots on February 5th:

  • The first - the primary ballot where democrats and republicans will choose who they want to face off in the November election.
  • The second - this ballot will decide which candidates will take part in a March 8th special election to fill Hastert's seat until November.
  • The Illinois' 14th District contains fast-growing Kendall County -- as well as chunks of Kane, DuPage and Will, Henry and Lee counties. It is an Illinois frontline in the subprime mortgage mess and it showed up in White House political director Karl Rove's 2007 leaked list of GOP districts that could be lost.

    John Laesch, a naval veteran from 1990s intelligence operations who sports the lieutenant-governor's backing, lost to Hastert in 2006. He has no health insurance and would reject the Congressional health plan for him and his wife until all Americans have something similar. A 34-year old union carpenter, he admires Iowa's ability to get 14% of its energy from wind power.

    "What we need to do is make sure everybody is putting a solar panel on their home, buying a hybrid vehicle and making their home energy efficient so we need to provide the incentives," said Laesch.

    For Bill Foster, the incentives need to be scientific and long term -- on the economy, energy and immigration. The well-financed Democrat was a physicist at nearby Fermilab and an entrepreneur. He's the choice of Illinois senator Dick Durbin -- and several Nobel laureates.

    "I want to look not just to the next election but to five ten 30 years from now and do what is right for the USA on that timescale," said Bill Foster, (D) Candidate for Congress.

    Rounding out the Democrats is attorney and recent Illinois transplant Jotham Stein. For Stein, change centers on getting US troops out of Iraq immediately, and bringing high tech jobs to the Fox Valley.

    "If you look at my hair, no hair on my head. It's not like I started yesterday, and I'm concerned about fixing the problems we got in our country," said Jotham Stein, (D) candidate for Congress.

    On the GOP side, voters are deciding whether the Hastert years are a guidepost to the future. Jim Oberweis thinks so, and enjoys the former speaker's hearty endorsement. But the man who runs Oberweis Dairies is mocked around here for running -- and losing -- election after election.

    "Look, I am an entrepreneur, I have started half a dozen companies, I've had some successes, I've had some failures, not everything has worked. But I do learn from those mistakes," said Jim Oberweis, (R) candidate for Congress.

    Oberweis has to fend off charges he's trying to buy the congressional seat -- charges made by State Senator Chris Lauzen, who sees virtue in driving a 10-year old Buick and responding to every constituent call personally -- but who recently had to give back a $100,000 campaign contribution from a company being investigated by the Illinois Attorney General.

    "There's two types of people who run for office, those who want to be someone, and those who want to actually do something for their neighbors, and I am one of the people who wants to do something, rather than be somebody," said Lauzen.

    Two others are on the ballot -- Jim Serra for the Democrats and Michael Dilger for the Republicans. Serra was unavailable for interviews and nobody has heard from Dilger even though he's been invited to several debates and interviews.