It’s more than a year before the midterm elections, but a GOP candidate for the 17th Congressional District thinks recent trouble for the state’s Democratic Party will help him get elected.
Bobby Schilling is seeking the Republican nomination and hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, D-Rock Island, in November 2010.
Schilling, 45, of Colona, thinks former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s troubles could benefit his campaign, he said Wednesday at a meeting with the Sauk Valley Newspapers Editorial Board.
“We look at all the corruption and the Chicago machine that runs this entire state – I think that gives me a huge plus,” Schilling said. “I’m one of the few Republicans that’s glad Roland Burris has stayed in the [Senate] seat, because in 2010 we can point back and say this is the mess, remember.”
Schilling has a huge mountain to climb: Hare has a significant financial lead and has brought millions in earmarks to the sprawling district, which encompasses all or portions of Adams, Calhoun, Christian, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, Jersey, Knox, Macon, Macoupin, McDonough, Madison, Mercer, Montgomery, Pike, Rock Island, Sangamon, Shelby, Warren and Whiteside counties.
The last time a Republican won the seat was in 1980. Hare was elected in 2006, defeating Andrea Zinga by nearly 29,000 votes, and had no GOP challenger in 2008.
Schilling thinks he can change 15,000 votes.
“I’m going to secure the base down south harder than it’s ever been secured before,” he said.
The gun rights advocate says he will court conservative Democrats and independents.
“I know it’s going to be a real tough race,” Schilling said. “I’m a numbers guy ... I don’t jump into anything unless I know for sure I’m going to take it.”
This is Schilling’s first run for elected office. He was born and raised in Rock Island County, and lived most of his life in the 17th District.
The district’s boundaries were redrawn in 2000, and he now lives 1.5 miles outside the 17th, in the 14th District, which is represented by Bill Foster, D-Geneva.
His restaurant, Saint Guiseppe’s Heavenly Pizza, is in the 17th, and he also owns real estate in that district.
Schilling said that he thinks people are upset with the growth in federal spending, and that he wants fiscal responsibility. “I want to see things in the black, not the red. A lot of people are fed up and tired, and that’s what I’m getting from my Democratic friends.
“I’m in this for the next generation we are dealing all this debt to, which no one will tell us how we’re going to pay back,” he said.
Schilling thinks he’ll need $1.3 million to beat Hare.
“I don’t believe I’ll be able to out fundraise him, but I do believe I’ll be able to unseat him,” he said.
According to his June 30 Federal Elections Commission report, Schilling has raised $23,000 so far, $10,000 of which is his own money.
Hare has raised 10 times that much – $230,000, almost 80 percent of which has come from political action committees.
Schilling is on a 3-month tour of the district. “You’ve got to start early to unseat a guy like this.”