On Wednesday Dan Seals (D) officially launched his bid for a rematch with Rep. Mark Kirk (R) in the 10th district.
Seals, who captured 47 percent of the vote last year despite being a complete unknown, does not have the Democratic field to himself, however.
Business consultant Jay Footlik (D) already said he would return to the area from Washington, D.C. — he grew up in Skokie, which is not in the 10th district, but has not lived in Illinois since high school — to run.
Local Democrats had hoped to clear the field for Seals, who in the words of one party activist who did not want to be named, had “earned it,” but they could not dissuade Footlik from running.
“I had a primary last time as well, and I’m a business person,” Seals said. “I’m used to competition and I welcome him to the race.”
Seals does not hide his disappointment with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee but said this is a new cycle.
“They didn’t really play much of a role in the last campaign, much to my chagrin, but this time they are paying close attention,” Seals said.
Seals ultimately raised $2 million without national help and forced Kirk, a leading Republican moderate, to dump $3.5 million on his way to narrowly securing a fourth term.
The DCCC finally lent Seals a hand in the campaign’s closing days but it was not enough to overcome Kirk in the 10th, which is based in Chicago’s northern suburbs.
Kirk is one of only eight Republican Congressmen representing seats won by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 presidential election, and the DCCC is unlikely to ignore the district again.
“Since coming to Washington, Mark Kirk has been a rubber stamp for the Bush administration, voting with Bush every four out of five times, and supporting [President] Bush’s failed ‘stay the course’ agenda in Iraq. But now, after a poor election performance against Dan Seals in 2006, Kirk’s running scared,” said Ryan Rudominer, a DCCC spokesman.
But Republican operatives argue that Kirk is battled-tested and that his views suit his district.
“Kirk is working overtime and will be well-prepared to take on either candidate that makes it out of what will surely be a bruising primary,” said Julie Shutley, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “His first-quarter numbers show he will take any challenge very seriously, but his hard work for the people of Illinois will be what gets him re-elected in 2008.”
Kirk, who is part of the NRCC’s Regain Our Majority Program, ended March with $626,000 cash on hand.
Seals, who had $37,000 in the bank as of April 1, said his biggest advantage will be the early start he is getting this time. Last cycle he only campaigned for 11 months.
“When you’re a new candidate people need time,” Seals said. “They need to see you to really get what you’re all about.”
Seals understands last year was unusual and the wave that won Democrats 30 new House seats is unlikely to crest again.
“My message was never ‘Democrats good, Republicans bad,’” Seals said. “That’s not the kind of campaign I ran. You can’t put politics in front of policy.
“We’ve seen awful leadership on both sides of the aisle and I think I’m better positioned to get us back on track than Mark Kirk is.”
— Nicole Duran