After picking up 33 House seats on election night 2006, knocking off 22 Republican incumbents, and capturing nine open Republican-held races along the way, Democrats across America rejoiced. But for Illinois Democrat Dan Seals, the 2006 election was bittersweet. Although the ...
After picking up 33 House seats on election night 2006, knocking off 22 Republican incumbents, and capturing nine open Republican-held races along the way, Democrats across America rejoiced. But for Illinois Democrat Dan Seals, the 2006 election was bittersweet. Although the first-time candidate assembled 2,600 volunteers and $2 million in contributions—with virtually no backing from the national party—and exceeded expectations by garnering an impressive 47 percent of the vote, he still fell short in his challenge to Republican Mark Kirk in Illinois’ 10th Congressional District. For the insurgent Seals, however, 2006 was just the first step. After an overwhelming win in what some projected to be a competitive primary, Seals again has his eyes on Kirk’s job. And this time, he’s confident that history won’t repeat itself.
A 36 year-old business consultant and son of a former Chicago Bears football player, Seals owes part of his success to the netroots, who heavily supported his campaign two years ago. Why grassroots activists were taken with the progressive Seals is no mystery. He’s consistently called for troop withdrawal in Iraq, he supports a national program of health insurance on both moral and economic grounds, he’s pro-choice, and he has advocated for federal funding to clean and protect the environment.
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If Seals is to take the seat from Kirk, a four-term incumbent, 2008 might be his best shot. Kirk has been successful at crafting a moderate image, one that’s proven beneficial in his affluent district just north of Chicago. A Naval reserve officer, Kirk was the only Republican to receive a 100 percent ranking from Planned Parenthood in 2006 and his efforts to preserve the waterways of the Great Lakes earned him recognition by the League of Conservation Voters as one of 13 Congressional “environmental champions.”
Despite his posturing, Kirk’s record is more Bush than Rockefeller Republican, a possible liability in one of only eight congressional districts nationwide that is represented by a Republican and yet voted Democratic during the 2004 presidential contest. This summer, he co-sponsored an Iraqi “phased-withdrawal” plan with conservative Illinois Democrat Dan Lipinski that contained no timetable and only recalled troops down to pre-surge levels. He voted against expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), a move that would have provided health insurance to 4 million kids. Most shockingly, he suggested that Americans should distribute free contraceptives to Mexicans as a long-term solution to illegal immigration, even though Mexican fertility rates have plummeted since 1980.
Given these dynamics, the race could be one of the most hotly contested in the country. Kirk holds a sizeable financial advantage – he raised more money in 2007 than any other House Republican – but name recognition has bolstered Seals’ fundraising as well. As of mid-January, he held over $600,000 cash on hand. And this time around, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is throwing its weight behind Seals, adding him to their “Red-to-Blue” program and naming Kirk a “Targeted Republican.” With the war and healthcare sure to be pressing issues this cycle, Seals is hoping residents from the 10th follow the national groundswell for change and back a new legislator.