Friday, December 16, 2005

Bean: ‘I Wouldn’t Want To Be Running Against Me’

Nate Legue
Lakeland Media

The Barrington business consultant who unseated the longest-running incumbent in the U.S. House last year doesn’t fear the Republicans clamoring to regain the 8th District in 2006.

Touting her legislative efforts and constituent services, Democratic freshman Rep. Melissa Bean struck a defiant pose Thursday despite Republican claims that she will have a target on her back come November.

“They’ve done polls here, and so have we, and I’m coming back,” Bean said during an interview last week. “I’m not taking anything for granted, ... but I wouldn’t want to be running against me.”

During the 2004 election cycle, the diminutive campaigner attacked former Rep. Phil Crane for being out of touch with the district after more than three decades in the Capitol. In her 10 months as a legislator, Bean has hosted more than 20 “Congress on the Corner” events, meet-and-greets where she sets up shop in local supermarkets to talk to constituents.

“It’s a district that’s very independent, that people don’t have hard political affiliations,” Bean said. “I think that’s what I proved by winning, and that’s what I’m hearing today: People respect somebody who’s going to work hard at the issues they care about.”

Still, six Republicans from the district, which includes the western half of Lake County as well as Gurnee and Zion, have signed on for a bid to challenge her next year.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, a group dedicated to increasing GOP seats in the House, already has criticized Bean in news releases and pledged to support whoever wins the primary in March.

A strong Republican candidate, the competitive nature of the district and the expense of the Chicago media market kind of makes the stars align to make this one of the most expensive races in the country,” said Jonathan Collegio, NRCC spokesman.

But Bean dismissed much of the predictions as Republican blustering and said the majority party may have to spend its resources defending incumbents. She had $1.1 million in cash on hand in her campaign coffers as of Sept. 30, more than the combined totals of the four Republican challengers who were required to report their fundraising by that deadline.

Bean said she’s built a strong base of support in the four years since she first considered running for the office and enjoys a comfortable monetary lead in her efforts. She is on track to raise between $3 million and $4 million, if necessary.

But one of her prospective GOP opponents, former investment banker David McSweeney, said Bean is “absolutely beatable” and expects to raise at least $5 million in the race if he’s victorious in the crowded Republican primary.

“No. 1, in this district in 2004, 56 percent went for President Bush, despite the meltdown in the state Republican party and the fact that Bush didn’t spend any money here,” McSweeney said.

Also on the GOP side, lawyer Kathy Salvi, state Rep. Robert Churchill, businesswoman Teresa Bartels, conservative activist Ken Arnold and lawyer Aaron Lincoln round out the field. Writer and activist Bill Scheurer has pledged to run as a third-party candidate.


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