McCain visits Ill. to campaign for Oberweis

February 20, 2008 7:47:00 PM PST
John McCain, the frontrunner in the Republican presidential race, was in the far west suburbs Wednesday night to help out in the race for 14th congressional district.McCain was at a fundraiser for Jim Oberweis in Sugar Grove. Oberweis is battling Democrat Bill Foster for that seat.

It is a seat that's been held by Dennis Hastert, the former Speaker of the House, for 21 years. Candidates on both sides, Bill Foster and Jim Oberweis, say this is a surprisingly close election, and both were sounding like presidential surrogates.

In his kitchen ahead of a big night, Jim Oberweis ponders having run for office now six times. And a man who could be president would be stumping for him in a few hours.

"It's a great honor, obviously, to have someone who has been a terrific leader, a war hero and just a patriotic individual, who commits his time and energy to help us in this campaign. And the proceeds being raised tonight are all going to help our campaign," said Oberweis.

In an airport hangar, a man who could become president takes the stage with the local businessman who is pursuing public office for the sixth time and has never won. It's heady stuff for the head of Oberweis Dairies, who strives to address McCain's perceived soft support among conservatives.

But coming to the Illinois 14th burnishes McCain credentials with conservatives. Oberweis thinks McCain's positions on Iraq, extending the Bush administration's tax cuts and combating illegal immigration will help push the man known for ice cream over the top March 8.

"John McCain has been a straight shooter and a clear talker, very much like I have been. Sometimes that gets us into political difficulty. But it's the right thing to do for our country," said Oberweis.

For 14th district voters, according to Democrat Bill Foster, trouble is the Republican Party's record on those very issues. And their choice in two weeks is clear.

"They can vote in favor of someone, Jim Oberweis, who believes continuing Bush's policies, or a vote for change. Vote for Bill Foster," said Foster.

Both candidates are wealthy local businessmen. Some analysts say by the time both elections are completed, the winner may well have spent more than $10 million.

While speaking in Sugar Grove, McCain was seemingly looking at Barack Obama as his prime opponent on the Democratic side.

"There will be ample time to outline the stark differences between the most liberal Democrat in the United States Senate, according to the National Journal, and myself, who is a proud Republican conservative with a proud record of conservative voting and activities. So I look forward to that occasion," McCain said.

After his speech, McCain and Oberweis would go to an event for Oberweis. They're expected to raise about $200,000 for this congressional fight.