August 13, 2012

How Paul Ryan Pick is Playing for Some Illinois Republicans

Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) continues a hectic campaign schedule Monday as he heads to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.

There’s been glowing reaction to Ryan’s selection as Mitt Romney’s running mate from Republican politicians and pundits, around the country and in Illinois. But what about Republican voters?

Before the March primary election, <a href="">Chicago Public Radio tracked three Illinois Republicans</a> as they made their presidential picks. Now it's time to check back in, and see how they feel about Romney’s vice-presidential choice.

<strong>'Proof that Romney is Serious'</strong>

On Sunday afternoon, Eva Sorock gets ready for the weekly family dinner, pulling stuff out of the oven.

"We’re making a shrimp casserole," Sorock said. "And my husband has taken up ice cream making so we don’t have to worry about that. Having asparagus, and I made some cookies. So it’s just kind of a regular American dinner."

A regular American dinner in north suburban Wilmette. Pretty much all of Sorock’s family is happy about the selection of Paul Ryan as the Republican vice-presidential pick.

"It’s a great, great feeling because he was really my first choice from the very beginning," she said.

Paul Ryan was Sorock's first choice for president. During the primary campaign, she explained how she wished there were other candidates, such as Paul Ryan.

"He’s the mover and shaker of the Tea Party people," she said.

Sorock is a 65-year-old Tea Party member, who voted for former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum in Illinois’ March primary. She was warming to Romney even before the Paul Ryan pick.

Sorock wears a Romney button, and she plans on volunteering for him, even though she practically swore in March she wasn’t going to get involved - angry that the party’s moderates had won again.

"I mean, I always give in in the end," Sorock said with a resigned chuckle. "I mean, the biggest problems we have are defeating Obama. And we do believe in elections and Romney won the primary."

Now the announcement of Ryan as the VP choice has won him excitement - from Sorock, at least. She said Ryan has never been afraid to talk about cuts to entitlements - Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare. She called his fiscal plans “radical,” and she meant that in a good way. On Friday, when she heard the news, she ran to Twitter to celebrate.

"We have some proof that Romney is serious about doing something about the problems in the country and not just gonna sort of try and glide into the presidency," she said.

So even though it’s obvious Sorock would rather have Paul Ryan at the very top of the ticket, she will settle for #2.

<strong>'He Gets It'</strong>

Another Illinois Republican who Romney needed to work on after the divisive primary was Amy Sejnost Kovacevic, a 37-year-old from Downers Grove. She picked Newt Gingrich in the primary.

There was just always something about Romney Kovacevic could never exactly figure out. She is a loyal Republican - a precinct committeeman - who is firmly backing her party’s nominee, but to some extent, that funny feeling about Romney remains.

"I can’t put exactly my finger on it still," she said. "I don’t know if it’s how he speaks. He speaks with convictions, but [Romney's] not a Paul Ryan."

Kovacevic heard Ryan speak in May at a lunch gathering. She described her seat location with an enthusiasm you more often hear about for concerts or baseball games.

"When I heard him speak, I was literally five tables away from him," she said. "He just - he gets it."

Ryan is relatively young, 42, which Amy likes. He can speak for her generation on the impact of long-term debt issues.

There’s another thing at play here - religion.

"You know, Paul Ryan is a devout Catholic. I am Catholic. I like that," Kovacevic said. "I’m not saying Mormon isn’t favorable. I’m just saying - Paul Ryan ties more into my beliefs in Christianity, if you will," Amy said.

One of Kovacevic’s jobs as precinct committeeman is to get folks in her neighborhood to vote, and vote for Republicans. She hasn’t started yet. She thinks everyone needs a bit more time to learn about the Romney-Ryan partnership.

<strong>'Heck of a Good Chance of Winning'</strong>

McHenry County farmer Harry Alten, 74, doesn’t know much of anything about Paul Ryan. This week, at least, he doesn’t have a lot of time to learn as he is working a food booth at the state fair for the Illinois Specialty Growers Association.

"We’re selling sweet corn - boiled sweet corn on the cob. We have cider slushies - with apple cider run through a slush machine. We have watermelon, cantaloupes, ice cream - you know, soft serve ice cream - and popcorn," he said.

This weekend, he had two grown nieces visit the food booth. He said they talked about Ryan.

"Both of them said the same thing: 'He’s a good looking man. He’s got white teeth, good hair, good eyes. He looks honest,'" Harry recalled, laughing. "I asked Cathy, my one niece, I said, 'What do you think about his political attributions, do you know where he comes from?' 'No, but he’s dreamy.'"

Harry caught Paul Ryan on the TV Sunday and was impressed. He heard Ryan talk about business growth, and limited government.

"He was talking about what they should be doing," Alten said. "You know, and how bad this is - the economy is and this administration is terrible. You know, all the political rhetoric."

Alten said he is annoyed at the moment about Congress' inaction in passing a farm bill as farmers across the country deal with incredibly small harvests due to the drought. However, he has hope for this Republican ticket. He likes what he is hearing, but wants to hear more.

"Give me some straight answers. You know what I mean?" he said. "Some positive thoughts on it, not just political rhetoric. Then I would say you’d have one hell of a good - I’m sorry - one heck of a good chance of winning."

May 12, 2012

Republican Congressional Candidates Square off in Forum

Four Republicans seeking their party’s nomination in Illinois’ new 13th Congressional district took part in a candidate forum Saturday night in Champaign.

They are trying to replace Congressman Tim Johnson (R-Urbana) on the November ballot after Johnson last month announced his retirement from politics. About 250 people showed up to the forum, but it will be up to each of the Republican Party chairs in the new 13th district to select a nominee.

The contenders are former Johnson aide Jerry Clarke of Urbana, Congressional staffer Rodney Davis of Taylorville, Chicago attorney Erika Harold, and TheraKids President Kathy Wassink of Shipman.

“I know Washington, DC,” said Clarke, who worked for the Illinois House Republicans before working for Congressmen Johnson and then Randy Hultgren. “I wouldn’t be your normal freshman Congressman. I could hit the ground running.”

“The courage it has taken to stand up to Republicans and Democrats alike throughout my career is the same courage I intend to take to Washington,” added Davis, who works for Congressman John Shimkus.

Harold said she has experience engaging college students in the political process, and she pledged to help broaden the Republican Party’s reach.

“I’ve had a lot of experience reaching out to people who have not traditionally voted for Republican candidates because I’m not the stereotypical Republican,” she said.

Wassink noted that she possesses many of the qualities of people in the 13th Congressional district, and because of that, she said voters will be able to relate to her.

“I represent somebody who says, ‘She’s just like me. She’s a mother. She’s a business owner. She’s an activist. She’s a woman of faith,” Wassink said.

The candidates agreed on many of the same issues – not raising taxes, passing tort reform, and repealing the federal healthcare act. But they said one issue trumps all else – job creation.

Clarke shared what he would do to bring more jobs to Illinois.

“I would address that by unburdening the small business people and farmers from over regulation,” he said.

Davis said he would work to rein in government spending.

“If we cannot stop Obama and the Democrats from spending our nation into possible bankruptcy, we’re not going to have a country years from now,” Davis noted.

Harold is interested in pursuing renewable energy resources with ethanol, and she also wants to lower taxes on small businesses.

“I think that right now there’s sort of an unpredictability in terms of our tax policy, and so companies do not know whether they’ll be in a position to hire someone next year,” Harold said.

“There’s a new term now for our graduates - underemployed, which is very sad,” Wassink added “Jobs have to be it, but it has to start from a different language than we’ve been doing it. It’s not working.”

Republican Party chairs in 14 counties that make up the new 13th Congressional district are expected to choose a nominee by casting a weighted vote on Saturday, May 19.

“I really care about winning the race,” said Habeeb Habeeb, the Republican Party chair in Champaign County. “This is a D plus 1 district, which means it leans slightly Democrat. Any one of them can be a great candidate, but I want the candidate who can appeal and win the race. That’s important to me.”

The Republican nominee will face Democrat David Gill in the November election.

The re-drawn 13th Congressional district includes Champaign, Decatur, Bloomington, Springfield, and the Metro East area near St. Louis.


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