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LaHood Is a Link to a Bygone House

LaHood won a special election on Thursday to replace former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, who resigned in March. (Ron Johnson/Journal Star File Photo via AP)
LaHood won a special election on Thursday to replace former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, who resigned in March. (Ron Johnson/Journal Star File Photo via AP)

The newest member of the House, Illinois Republican Darin LaHood, who will succeed Aaron Schock, has connections to Congress that go back more than 25 years to when his father, Ray LaHood, was a staff member for Robert H. Michel, the House minority leader at the time.  

When Michel retired, Ray LaHood won his Illinois district in 1994 which he represented until becoming Transportation secretary in 2009.  

With some changes in boundaries, today’s 18th District that Darin LaHood will represent is about the same one his father and Michel represented.  

Not only is Darin LaHood the son of a former member of Congress, he, like about 80 members, once served a congressional staffer. From 1990 to 1994, LaHood worked for California Republican and Appropriations Committee member Jerry Lewis, the No. 3 House Republican until conservative Dick Armey ousted him in 1992, arguing that Lewis was too cozy with the Democrats, then the majority party in the House.  

LaHood knows how the House works — or at least how it used to work back in the days when, for example, the House debated and passed individual appropriations bills and when Republicans and Democrats weren’t in a nearly constant state of ideological warfare.  

LaHood served as a state and federal prosecutor before becoming a member of the state Senate in Illinois. He has supported Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s struggle to cut the $110 billion in unfunded liabilities in the state pension system for public school teachers and state employees.  

“We have over-promised and over-committed in our pension system. The amount of money being spent on our pension programs is unsustainable,” LaHood said. Spending on pension benefits, he argued, is “eating away at taxpayer money that could go to social service programs and lot of other things in the state.”  

There are parallels, he added, with the federal government’s promises of benefits to future Social Security recipients. To reduce the unfunded liabilities, he said, “you’ve got to come up with creative ideas; you have to think out of the box.”  

He added, “I’m 47 years old. I would support raising my retirement age, when I get my benefits, a couple of years.” He said such changes would need to be phased in, “in a tiered approach,” and done in a fair way.  

A supporter of gun owners’ rights and an opponent of last June’s Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriages nationwide, LaHood is undoubtedly a conservative . But his career and his demeanor suggest that he isn’t likely to become one of the House Republicans’ ideological crusaders.  

LaHood said his wife, Kristen, and their three sons, ages 13, 11, and 8, will remain back in the village of Dunlap, Ill., (population: 1,399) and not move to Washington.  

He said his father counseled him when he was thinking of running for the Schock seat: “First, make sure your wife and family are on board before you do anything. Your family is first and foremost if you’re going to go into public service. And second, remember who you work for, stay grounded, come back to your district every weekend, don’t get intoxicated by money and power.”


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