Hastert's Potential Retirement Could Open Up IL-14
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Jul 23, 2007 at 09:03:01 AM EDT
Late last week we heard rumors of forthcoming news that former House Speaker Denny Hastert would either be retiring at the end of this Congress or would leave his position representing Illinois' 14th district even earlier, resigning before his term is up. Now Robert Novak reports for the Chicago Sun-Times that, yes, this is indeed the case.
Former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert has indicated to a close former aide that it is likely he will not run for a 12th term from his northern Illinois district and may even resign from Congress before his present term concludes.
That runs counter to widespread speculation on Capitol Hill that Hastert will continue in the House for another two years as a private member with no leadership responsibilities. Since last year's Democratic takeover of Congress moved him out of the speaker's office, he has enjoyed returning to his former specialty of energy issues as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
A footnote: If Hastert does not run, a leading candidate will be his chief of staff, Mike Stokke. Before going on Hastert's staff, Stokke was an aide for both the Illinois Legislature and the governor's office in Springfield.
Looking at the signs, there is reason to believe that Hastert will not serve out the remainder of his term -- even though just six and a half months ago he said that he would. Clearly, a demotion from Speaker to just another member, particularly a member in the minority (which has little to no power in the House), is one that would be difficult for anyone to stomach for very long, and one that could lead a member to resign rather than continue to serve. The fact that Hastert isn't going out of his way to raise funds -- he brought in roughly $150,000 during the second quarter and only has about $75,000 in the bank -- doesn't make Hastert look like a member who particularly cares about running again.
It's also quite possible that Hastert will serve out the remainder of his term only to announce that he will not run for reelection. This would open up a very competitive race to choose his successor in a district that, while leaning towards the Republicans (IL-14 has a Cook PVI of
R+4 R+5), would nonetheless be competitive without an incumbent running. There are currently four Democrats running in the race -- 2006 Democratic nominee John Laesch, state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, scientist Bill Foster and attorney Jotham Stein -- and as you can see from campaign finance filings, each of them (with the exception of the first) has been raising and spending money already, with Foster, in particular, bringing in an impressive $130,000 in the second quarter. (Update [2007-7-23 13:36:10 by Jonathan Singer]:Per reader JJCPA, perhaps I should have read Foster's actual campaign finance report rather than just the topline numbers when talking about his fundraising success. Foster gave his campaign about $120,000 of the $130,000 he raised in the second quarter.) Laesch's name recognition garnered from his first run, as well as his ties to the grassroots and netroots, are also a plus for his candidacy.
Mark this down as another race to watch this cycle.