The 11th Congressional District race in Illinois started off looking like a slam-dunk for the Democratic Party. But that might not be the case anymore.
The election had the benchmarks of a Democratic takeover when incumbent Republican Congressman Jerry Weller decided last year not to seek another term. The announcement came after the Chicago Reader uncovered that the south suburban politician failed to disclose property he owned in Nicaragua, which he wasn't too happy to talk about with reporters.
With a scandal-ridden incumbent stepping down and then the winner of the GOP primary also bowing out, this race looked like it was in the bag for Democrat Debbie Halvorson. The district, which is traditionally a Republican stronghold, may also be in the throes of a political sea change. More Democrats than Republicans hit the polls last winter for the presidential primary. While this might make some Republicans worried, the party received a jump-start in April by slating concrete company owner Marty Ozinga against Halvorson and 26-year-old Green Party candidate Jason Wallace (geez, what were you doing when you were 26?).
Halvorson, a former cosmetics saleswoman, says she's ready to serve the district by touting her experience as the Illinois State Senate Majority Leader, which Ozinga has used for political ammunition. Following Sen. John McCain's lead, Ozinga claims Halvorson has close ties to Senate President Emil Jones and Governor Rod Blagojevich, charges Halvorson denies. But Ozinga's tactic of lumping Halvorson in the same boat as the governor may have backfired when it was revealed that Ozinga donated $10,000 to Blagojevich.
With the election only a few weeks away, a debate scheduled for tomorrow at Illinois State University might give a boost to either candidate so long as they both show up.
By Hunter Clauss
Photo of Debbie Halvorson from her website