That means the seat will be open in November. And that brings us to the February 2, 2010 primary.
In some ways, the frontrunner is Dan Seals, the third-times-the-charm candidate who narrowly lost in 2006 and 2008 to Mark Kirk. After his well-funded campaign, anyone who watched Oprah anytime in October in 2008 knows the name of Dan Seals. As do all of the precinct committeemen and women of the 10th District, and those relationships are paying off for the Seals campaign with some township endorsements. He's an intelligent person and clearly perserverant.
Elliot Richardson is an attorney who launched his own firm. He is also an intelligent person.
But the most qualified candidate with the best skill set to have an impact in Congress if elected is Representative Julie Hamos, one of the Illinois General Assembly's absolute best legislators. Julie has served for 10 years in the Illinois House and worked for more than a decade before that a progressive lobbyist in Springfield figuring out how to pass bills. That is not an easy task. And it is not intuitive. It is not like practicing law or running a business. It is a very difficult combination of policy analysis, negotiation, mobilization, interpersonal relationship managment and consensus-building. Julie is already very, very good at it. And that's the job of a legislator: pass good bills.
I'm struck by the similarities between my endorsement of Barack Obama for Senate in 2004 and Julie Hamos for Congress in 2010.
In the Obama Senate primary, Barack was fond of saying "I'm the only candidate that's passed a bill. I'm the only candidate that's passed a budget." Well, Julie is the only candidate that has passed a bill and she's the only candidate that has passed a budget. Barack was also competing against some smart, talented competitors (Dan Hynes, Gery Chico, Blair Hull), just as Dan Seals and Elliot Richardson are no slouches. Julie was one of the very first legislators to endorse Barack in 2004. (In fact, when Barack gave his speech in Daley Plaza in 2003 speaking out against the Iraq War as a dumb idea when it was difficult to stand up against the loud beating of the war drums, there was only one other legislator who also spoke out against the war: Representative Julie Hamos).
And just as there's something fitting about State Senator Barack Obama seeking election as U.S. Senator Barack Obama, there is something fitting about State Representative Julie Hamos seeking election as U.S. Representative Julie Hamos.
Importantly, Julie is also the strongest Democratic candidate in November. The strongest Republican candidate for the seat is State Representative Beth Coulson, and if Beth wins her primary, then Dan Seals' and Elliot Richardson's lack of any legislative experience will be a real liability against Beth. That legislative experience helped then-State Senator Debbie Halvorson beat concrete magnate Marty Ozinga in the far south suburbs in 2008 to get elected to Congress. I would not want that narrative flipped in the 10th district with a Republican candidate with a better skill set than the Democratic nominee, and only Julie Hamos has the experience and qualifications to match up against Beth Coulson.
One township committeeman summed it up: "Dan Seals is a nice guy and a smart man, but he had two chances at this seat and he didn't get it done. Plus he doesn't live in the district." Julie does live in the district (as does Elliot), and in a close race in November, why give the Republicans any opportunity to turn off a few voters because Dan decided not to move into the district (after running for four years)?
The main reason to support Julie is the same reason I supported Barack for Senate: it is very hard to be a good legislator, and very good state legislators are the ones who become very good federal legislators. Both Barack and Julie were very good state legislators. And I predict Julie will become one of our state's best legislators.