Rep. Peter Roskam (R)
Illinois 6th District
During World War II, the largest troop and cargo airplane, the Douglas C-54, was built at a military airstrip called Orchard Field, just northwest of Chicago. Today, Orchard Field is known as O’Hare International Airport, the nation’s second-busiest. (O’Hare’s three-letter code, ORD, borrows three letters from the word “orchard.”) In the 1940s, Chicago politicians in search of a new airport site annexed Orchard Field, along with thousands of adjacent acres, and renamed it for a Navy flyer who lost his life in the war and hailed from Chicago, Lt. Edward O’Hare. Mayor Richard J. Daley, the father of the current mayor, opened O’Hare in 1955 and aggressively promoted its development, correctly concluding that a great airport in the 20th century could do for Chicago what railroad stations and rail yards did for the city in the 19th century. For years, O’Hare has vied with Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson as America’s No. 1 or No. 2 airport, and it has done much to maintain Chicago as the most vibrant center of commerce in the Midwest. Today, with O’Hare operating close to capacity, Mayor Richard M. Daley’s plans to reconfigure the runways and expand the airport are aimed at maintaining its pre-eminence. However, expansion is highly unpopular in the densely packed suburbs that surround O’Hare. Politically, these suburbs were for many years solidly Republican, convinced that civic virtues could best be realized by opposing the party of City Hall in Chicago, and that economic growth could best be assured by opposing the party that backed stifling government regulation. But in the 1990s, they became less Republican, as voters here recoiled from the national party’s cultural conservatism.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 6th Congressional District of Illinois includes O’Hare and much of the suburban area to its west. Most of the district is in DuPage County, the second-largest county in Illinois after Cook County. It includes the string of long-settled suburbs due west of the Loop: Elmhurst, Villa Park, Lombard, Glen Ellyn, and Wheaton. It takes in other suburbs along Interstate 290: Bensenville, Addison, Wood Dale, and Bloomingdale. Economically, this remains high-income territory; culturally, it is now cautiously moderate or even liberal. In 1988, George H.W. Bush carried DuPage by 124,000 votes, with 68% of the vote, but in 2004, his son carried it by only 39,000 votes, for a total of 54%—which tells you in a nutshell why the elder Bush carried Illinois in 1988 and the younger Bush twice wrote it off. In 2008, Illinois was a lost cause for Republicans opposed to favorite-son Democrat Barack Obama. John McCain lost DuPage by 45,000 votes.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R)
Elected: 2006, 2nd term.
Born: Sept. 13, 1961, Hinsdale .
Education: U. of IL, B.A. 1983, Chicago-Kent Col. of Law, J.D. 1989.
Family: Married (Elizabeth); 4 children.
Elected office: IL House, 1992-98; IL Senate, 2000-06, Min. Whip, 2003-06.
Professional Career: Aide, U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, 1985-86, U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde, 1986-87; High school teacher, 1983-85; Exec. Dir., Educational Assistance Ltd., 1987-1993; Practicing atty., 1994-2006.
The congressman from the 6th District is Peter Roskam, a Republican elected in 2006 to succeed the iconic Henry Hyde, who retired after 32 years. A native of DuPage County, Roskam was a varsity gymnast in high school, graduated from the University of Illinois, and got his law degree while directing a charitable organization that used corporate resources to fund college scholarships. During law school, he was part of a team that won a national mock trial competition. As a young man, he also once worked as an aide to Hyde. Roskam served six years in the state House, and six years in the Senate, where he was the Republican whip and floor leader. Between those legislative stints, he ran unsuccessfully in 1998 for the open congressional seat in the neighboring 13th District, losing 45%-40% against state House colleague Judy Biggert in the Republican primary. He attacked Biggert for support of abortion rights and was backed by national Republicans, but she raised far more money and had the endorsement of Gov. Jim Edgar and the incumbent representative, Harris Fawell. In 2006, Hyde, one of the most widely respected conservatives on Capitol Hill, stepped down. Roskam raised nearly $400,000 in two months, and managed to scare off potentially competitive Republican challengers. He ran unopposed for the GOP nomination, conserving his money for the general election.
|Peter Roskam (R)||147,906||(58%)||($2,708,859)|
|Jill Morgenthaler (D)||109,007||(42%)||($827,457)|
|Peter Roskam (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (51%)
In the general election campaign, his Democratic opponent was Tammy Duckworth, a former manager for Rotary International and an Iraq war veteran. The daughter of a retired Marine and an ethnically Chinese mother, she was born in Bangkok and spent much of her early life in Southeast Asia. She was famous as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot who served with the Illinois National Guard and lost both legs in Iraq after her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and crashed. As part of an effort to nominate military veterans for Congress, then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel, from the neighboring 5th District and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, hand-picked Duckworth. Her high profile made this one of the nation’s most closely watched House races, and one of the most expensive. First, she faced a competitive primary from technology consultant Christine Cegelis, who ran against Hyde in 2004 and held him to a 56%-44% win, his smallest margin since he was first elected. A political novice, Duckworth was slow to pick up campaign skills, but she was bolstered by Emanuel and other party leaders. She also benefited from a wave of favorable news coverage for her compelling personal story. Duckworth won the primary with 44% to 40% for Cegelis and 16% for a third candidate.
The two nominees sparred over tax cuts, earmarks, the Iraq war, and immigration policy. They also clashed over abortion rights, federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research, and expansion of O’Hare, all of which Roskam opposed. Duckworth criticized Roskam as “a rubber stamp” for the Bush administration, and referred to the scandal-plagued House GOP Leader Tom DeLay of Texas as Roskam’s “mentor.” While Roskam was climbing a political ladder with DeLay, her campaign said, “Tammy Duckworth was climbing into helicopters and serving her country.” Former President Clinton and actor Michael J. Fox made campaign appearances for her. Roskam disparaged Duckworth as the “candidate from the Chicago Democratic machine” because of her ties to the well-connected Emanuel. He also sought to portray her as a carpetbagger. In one of the few Republican successes in a competitive House contest that year, Roskam won with 51%-49%. Duckworth got 53% of the vote in Cook County, but Cook cast only 20% of the total vote. Roskam won 52%-48% in DuPage—sufficient, though not overwhelming.
In the House, Roskam votes near the center of the Republican Party. In May 2007, the House by 173-245 defeated his amendment to limit contributions to the affordable housing trust fund when the government is running a deficit. With Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., he unveiled in 2008 an energy-independence plan that was based on aggressive domestic production, conservation, and alternative fuels. That year, he also voted against the government bailout of the financial markets because, he said, it was not tough enough on Wall Street executives and “places too great a burden on taxpayers with no guarantee of success.” As a constituent-outreach technique, he encouraged participation in his “There Oughta Be a Law” campaign soliciting proposals for new laws from residents of his district. In 2009, his solid freshman year and his friendship with party leaders got him a seat on the Ways and Means Committee. Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin vowed that Democrats would give Roskam a strong challenge in 2008, but in July 2007 Duckworth, the party’s top prospect, decided to stay in her job as head of the Illinois Veterans’ Affairs Department. Instead, Democrats nominated another Iraq war veteran, retired Army Col. Jill Morgenthaler, who was the Army spokeswoman during the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. She campaigned on her support for President Bush’s troop surge in Iraq, but said that democracy in Iraq must be “homegrown.” She accused Roskam of having “extreme” views on abortion, health care, and the economy. Despite early Democratic hopes that Barack Obama’s coattails would reach across Illinois, the national party gave little help to Morgenthaler. Roskam handily won a second term, 58%-42%, garnering 52% in the Cook County suburbs and 59% in DuPage. He and Democrat Debbie Halvorson, of the 11th District in Illinois, are the only members of Congress who served with Obama in the state Senate.