Profile: Democratic 5th district candidates Part 1

February 25, 2009 5:07:02 PM PST
Next Tuesday, voters in the 5th congressional district will go to the polls to narrow down the number of candidates running to become the newest member of Congress. The 5th congressional district encompasses north and northwest side neighborhoods of Chicago and stretches out to the northwest suburbs near O'Hare.

The field is huge; 22 candidates are on the ballot, 12 of them are Democrats, six are Republicans and four Green Party candidates.

This special primary is being held to fill the congressional seat that was vacated when three-term congressman Rahm Emanuel agreed to become Barack Obama's White House chief of staff.

With just two months to run a campaign, nearly two dozen candidates jumped into the fray. Among those hoping to fill the spot are some names that are well-known in the district.

State Representative Sara Feigenholtz is among those who've built the largest campaign war chests.

Feigenholtz says during her tenure in Springfield she's helped expand health insurance programs for the un-insured. She positions herself as someone who can be effective in tough political environments.

"Frankly, I am the kind of person that even amidst the chaos and dysfunction of Illinois government. I was able to get a lot done and deliver for the people represent in Chicago," Feigenholtz said.

State Representative John Fritchey is also campaigning on his record in the Illinois legislature. He cites accomplishments fighting corruption and higher taxes. Like Feigenholts, Fritchey believes his relationship with the president is an asset.

"I'm confident that coming out of this district, serving under a president that I started state politics with, with a predecessor that's the president's chief of staff, I'm confident that I can make an impact from day one on things that matter to voters in the 5th congressional district," said Fritchey.

Another elected official, Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley, says his message of change and reform earned him endorsements from both the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times. Quigley thinks his reputation in the district gives him the edge.

"We started with the best name recognition by far and a brand fighting for reform, fighting for change, fighting against tax hikes. That's what people are buying now," said Quigley.

Chicago 40th Ward Alderman Patrick O'Connor says while the other three elected officials in the race promote their independent natures, he believes his record of accomplishment through team work is what sets him apart

"I think I've shown in my history with the mayor and the city council, working with other municipalities through my work with the League of Cities, that I actually am someone who can do that collaborative work," said O'Connor.

Tom Geoghegan would be a newcomer to elected office. The labor lawyer has built a career in the courts fighting pension and healthcare cases on behalf of employees and patients. He wants to take that expertise to Capitol Hill.

"I'm someone who speaks and knows and understands the whole issues that affect working people today, especially pensions and healthcare. That's been my meat and potatoes as a lawyer," said Geoghegan.

Meanwhile, economist and University of Chicago instructor Charlie Wheelan says his expertise is what's needed most at this point in time. He says academics have a strong tradition of transitioning into effective legislators.

"I am not an elected politician, and fairly or unfairly people have decided they are tired of looking to the traditional political farm team every time you need to promote someone to the next office," said Wheelan.

The special primary in the 5th congressional district is next Tuesday, March 3.

This is Part 1 of our four-part candidate profile series. Thursday on ABC7 News at 4:30 and at, we'll profile the six other, perhaps lesser known, Democrats in the race.