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Sweet Column: Rahm Emanuel -- GOP target in Duckworth-Roskam contest

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From today's column...


The volume in the heated House duel between Democrat Tammy Duckworth and Republican Peter Roskam was cranked up Tuesday as Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) became a factor in the race.


Emanuel, the chief of the House Democratic political operation and one of Duckworth's prime sponsors, was targeted by Republicans Tuesday in the contest for the seat being vacated by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.).

There may be an emerging GOP strategy to try to make Emanuel radioactive in this race as Democrats continue to demonize former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who is facing state campaign money laundering charges in Texas.

Roskam, now a state senator from Wheaton, worked as a legislative aide for DeLay over a seven- or eight-month period in the 1980s and Democrats are making his association with DeLay an issue.

The National Republican Congressional Committee sent out a release with the taunting headline, "Tammy Duckworth-WWRD: What Would Rahm Do.''

The NRCC -- the GOP counterpart to Emanuel's Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (both organizations are based in Washington) -- is injecting Emanuel into the race as Duckworth is faced with the challenge of uniting Democrats in the wake of the divisive March 21 Illinois primary.

Duckworth, a wounded Iraq war vet from Hoffman Estates, won the 6th Congressional District Democratic primary with 44 percent of the vote to almost 41 percent for Christine Cegelis. Many of Cegelis' followers resented Emanuel encouraging Duckworth to get in the race and then using his considerable fund-raising ability to help her quickly bankroll her bid.

Emanuel's votes added

Curiously, Democrats following the 6th District primary who were Cegelis backers channeled far more anger toward Emanuel than Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who was as instrumental, if not more, than Emanuel in getting Duckworth to run and helping her to win.

But it was Emanuel who essentially pulled the rug out from Cegelis early on by shopping around for another candidate, so he wears the jacket.

The day after the primary, the NRCC sent out a release asking Duckworth where she stood on 10 bills the House had voted on in 2005, which Duckworth's team understandably ignored.

Tuesday, the NRCC sent out a revised version of the same release this time adding Emanuel's votes. "Until she answers these questions, voters can and should assume that Duckworth, who has been recruited and paid for by the National Democrats, will vote with her liberal leaders.''

Perhaps the NRCC is not aware that Emanuel does not always vote the same way as his other more liberal colleagues in leadership, for example, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Just March 7, Emanuel and Pelosi divided over a key vote on reauthorizing additional amendments to the controversial USA Patriot Act. Emanuel was one of 66 Democrats to vote with 214 Republicans to pass the measure. Pelosi voted with 124 Democrats and 13 Republicans against passage.

The NRCC craftily asked Duckworth in its release where she would stand on roll call vote 648, a resolution sponsored by Hyde "expressing the commitment of the House of Representatives to achieving victory in Iraq'' that was voted on Dec. 16. The resolution said that setting an "artificial timetable'' for deploying troops out of Iraq is "inconsistent with achieving victory.''

Duckworth told me that day that she would have voted yes on the Hyde resolution.

Emanuel, hardly a profile in courage, but wanting to I suppose avoid controversy, voted "present,'' along with 32 Democrats and two Republicans. Pelosi was one of 108 Democratic nays. Some 59 Democrats joined 220 Republicans in voting yes on the resolution.

Medicare Part D

In time, I want to give you the Duckworth and Roskam positions on the 10 votes put out by the NRCC because they picked some interesting bills that could well serve as a threshold contrast for where the rivals stand.

Duckworth spokesman Billy Weinberg on Tuesday said he did not want to go through the votes at this time because (reasonably from a press agent point of view) he did not want to play into the NRCC "stunt.''

I believe it is absolutely fair to ask candidates how they would have voted on real bills and resolutions that real lawmakers have had to decide whether to vote aye or nay on.

Weinberg asked me to call Roskam's camp to see if Roskam was going to respond to a demand the Duckworth team made to disclose where he stood on Medicare Part D -- the new prescription drug benefit -- and to take a stand on congressional reform.

I obliged. Ryan McLaughlin, Roskam's campaign manager, told me they did not respond to a Duckworth fax because it came during the primary. Roskam had no opposition, so I could see why McLaughlin did not jump at Weinberg's, dare I say, stunt. Nonetheless, McLaughlin seemed accommodating.

"If they want to resend it to me, I'll take a look at it,'' McLaughlin said.

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5 Comments

For the record, I am furious with Durbin as well as Rahm; and many of the people who write on the progressive blogs are too. I am also extremely unhappy with my own representative, Jan Schakowsky, who is supposed to be a progressive, but decided to sell the grassroots down the river at Rahm's bidding.

All I can say is, these political geniuses who used deceptive fundraising pitches to bankroll Duckworth (e.g., John Kerry's emails telling people Tammy was running against the Republicans, not using the money for a primary) -- $1 million she needed every penny of just to beat Cegelis by less than 800 votes in the final count -- had better make sure Tammy wins in November or the long knives will really be out! Oh, and they better not aid Tammy to the exclusion of other promising candidates like Dan Seals in IL-10 and John Pavich in IL-11, both of whom have a real shot at winning if they get the kind of support Rahm et al. are sure to continue lavishing on Duckworth.

"These political geniuses...had better make sure Tammy wins in November or the long knives will really be out!"

As opposed to, say, Cegelis' loss in '04 to Hyde?

As a resident of the 6th District (which Duckworth is not) I resent carpetbaggers coming here and telling us who should represent us in Congress.

Rahm Emanuel represents what is totally wrong with our politcal system. A guy who somehow left the Clinton administration with no money in his pockets and a few years later is a millionaire who then went and bought himself a congressional seat.

Duckworth owes everything to Rahm and Durbin and believe me, if she gets elected these two will come before the interests of the 6th District.

it should be no surprise that the roskam campaign dragged rahm into this race. rahm fits perfectly as the thing roskam wants to run against -- a corrupt chicago political machine that is so arrogant that it drops in candidates from outside the district to expand their influence and power.

rahm represents exactly what the voters of the 6th cd fled from, so tying duckworth to rahm was predictable (in fact, i already predicted it!). while the district is indeed less republican than it used to be (given the influx of voters where their only choices were basically democrats), connecting duckworth with rahm and the chicago political machine makes voting for roskam safe. they already made the choice to leave all *that* stuff behind...

Yes "James" everyone was expecting Christine to topple Henry Hyde in 2004. That's why politicians from John Kerry to Hillary Clinton went to the mat for her, holding big bucks fundraisers, getting East Coast donors to max out on her behalf. Oh wait...

Are you really that stupid?

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 29, 2006 5:10 AM.

Sen. Dick Durbin on Card quitting: ``They picked the wrong person to toss overboard.��? UPDATE: Durbin talks to CNN's Wolf Blitzer was the previous entry in this blog.

Wes Clark, Madeleine Albright: Featured at House, Senate Dems national security event today. is the next entry in this blog.

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