By JACK R. VAN DER SLIK
Congressional ocean changing:
"Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, roll!" Lord Byron's poetry about the changing sea offers a metaphor for congressional politics. A sea change is moving toward Congress. In October 1991 the Gallup Poll said public approval of Congress reached a record low: Only 18 percent of those polled have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in Congress. In January 1993 the turnover in Congress will reach a high not experienced since Harry S. Truman beat the Republicans and the "Do-Nothing 80th Congress" in 1948. After that election there were 112 freshmen in the House and an incredible 17 new senators.
In a typical election year four or five senators retire, and about 30 representatives step down (some to seek higher office). Typically three-fourths of the senators seeking reelection and about 95 percent of the incumbent representatives win another term. So typical turnover is eight senators and fewer than 50 representatives.
1992 will not be typical. Recently Galiup asked: Do most members of the House of Representatives deserve to be reelected? "Yes," say 38 percent; "No," say 48 percent. With that dismal rating and with the House bank scandal having touched 300 members, American voters are looking for alternatives. The congressional response was startling. By May 1,52 representatives had announced retirement, six had gone down in primaries, and five more will be defeated in redistricting matchups of incumbent v incumbent. Seven senators have announced retirement, and Illinois' 42-year career politician. Democrat Alan J. Dixon, was the first incumbent U.S. senator in the nation to lose a primary since 1980. How many more turnovers will take place in November is a matter of speculation.
Not only the public but also congressional members sense that Congress cannot do its job. The presidency is held by Republicans; both houses of Congress are in the hands of Democrats; the structural checks and balances between the two branches controlled by opposite parties leave the big problems unsolved. Since 1969 the budget has been out of balance every year; health care is more costly and less accessible; drug use has not been stopped. Congress appears incapable of action.
The early swells of the congressional sea change have already broken on the Illinois congressional delegation. Redistricting was not kind. First, Illinois' no-growth population meant a reduction in House seats from 22 to 20. From a high of 26 seats in the late 1940s, Illinois has lost a seat or two after every census except 1970. This time the Democratic majority in the delegation never obtained consensus on a remap plan, so the Democratic-dominated Illinois legislature did not pass one. Decision-making power fell to a Republican-inclined federal court. It adopted a plan that squeezed out two Democratic-dominated districts while creating a Hispanic district in Chicago that no incumbent could win.
The remap's first result was the retirement announcement by Rep. Frank Annunzio (D-11, Chicago). First elected to the House in 1964, he would not seek reelection. The second was the elimination of two Democratic incumbents in head-to-head contests in two new districts: Marty Russo of South Holland and William Lipinski of Chicago in the 3rd District (southwest Chicago and suburbs) and Terry Bruce of Olney and Glen Poshard of Carterville in the 19th District (southeast Illinois from Decatur to the Ohio River). In both contests voters picked the candidate with lesser seniority and less funds from political action committees: Lipinski and Poshard. (See box on page 10.)
In two reshaped districts in Chicago dominated by African Americans, the incumbents were drubbed. In the 1st District (Chicago's south side), 74-year-old Charlie Hayes, successor to Harold Washington, was found high on the House list of check kiters. He was defeated in a close primary by Alderman Bobby Rush, whose activism dates back to his days as a Black Panther in the 1960s. Incumbent Gus Savage was beaten in the 2nd District (Chicago's south side and south suburbs) by Mel Reynolds, a black college instructor and onetime Rhodes scholar. In the Hispanic 4th District (mid-Chicago to the west side), Luis Gutierrez of Puerto Rican descent was nominated over Juan Soliz from the Mexican-American community. (See "Bobby Rush and Mel Reynolds defeat incumbent congressmen," May 1992 Illinois Issues, and "How first Hispanic congressional district remaps Chicago politics," December 1991 Illinois Issues.)
Democratic incumbents shudder at the results in the Senate primary and in Chicago's north side 5th Congressional District. The two Democratic power lifters in the Illinois congressional delegation are incumbent Sen. Dixon and U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. When the issues have to do with getting goodies for Illinois, these are the Democrats who can amend bills, slip projects into supplemental appropriations and
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write the loopholes into law. Incumbent Dixon was besmirched by millions of dollars worth of challenger Al Hofeld's commercials, punished by unionists who thought he was too close to business and unloved by feminists and liberals. Dixon's supporters failed to rally, and he lost in the three-way race for nomination to Carol Moseley Braun, currently Cook County recorder of deeds and former state representative. Similarly, Rostenkowski, who is used to standing for election rather than running for it, got less than 58 percent of the primary vote in the 5th District (Chicago's north side). His challenger and a perennial critic of the machine, Dick Simpson, came closer to knocking off Rostenkowski than any opponent has come in Rostenkowski's long congressional career; he was first elected in 1958.
The other seven Democratic incumbents in Congress went virtually unchallenged: Cardiss Collins of Chicago in the 7th District (central Chicago and the west side), Jerry Costello of Belleville in the 12th District (far southwestern Illinois along the Mississippi River), John W. Cox Jr. of Galena in the 16th District (far northern Illinois with Rockford), Richard Durbin of Springfield in the 20th District (west and southcentral Illinois), Lane Evans of Rock Island in the 17th District (west north central Illinois), George Sangmeister of Mokena in the llth District (far south Chicago suburbs with Joliet and other counties) and Sidney Yates of Chicago in the 9th District (Chicago lakefront, Evanston and the near north Cook County suburbs).
Republicans, long-suffering as the minority with seven of Illinois' current delegation, suffered less from incumbency. Suburbanites Phillip M. Crane of Mount Prospect in the 8th District (northern Cook and western Lake County) and John Porter of Wilmette in the 10th (far north Chicago suburbs and Waukegan) both had serious challengers, but both emphasized ideology and won. Porter pushed pro-abortion rights against a vigorous opponent. Crane renewed his claim as a comprehensive conservative, letting his opponent try to articulate a contrasting self-description as a pragmatic conservative. The other five Republican incumbents were mostly unchallenged and were nominated: Thomas Ewing of Pontiac in the 15th District
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(east central Illinois), Harris Fawell of Naperville in the 13th District (southwest Chicago suburbs in Cook, DuPage and Will counties), Dennis Hastert of Yorkville in the 14th District (north central Illinois), Henry Hyde of Bensenville in the 6th District (northwest Chicago suburbs) and House Minority Leader Robert Michel of Peoria in the 18th District (central Illinois).
Republicans had close primaries in five districts with Democratic incumbents. If these results have a message, it was that voters seemed to favor nonlegislators and fresh candidates. For example, a seasoned Republican state senator, Jack Schaffer of Crystal Lake, lost badly in his bid in the 16th District to face Cox in November; Donald Manzullo of Egan won the GOP nomination with more than 56 percent of about 72,000 votes. In Lipinski's 3rd District, a few hundred votes separated the top three of five Republican contestants. The winner, Harry C. Lepinske of Western Springs, has a name very similar to that of the incumbent. In the 9th District, Herb Sohn of Chicago won the GOP primary with 56 percent of the vote to face Yates in November. Facing Sangmeister in November in the 11th District is Robert T. Herbolsheimer, a New Lenox lawyer, who won the six-contestant GOP primary where one of the losers was former Democrat and former state Rep. Sam Panayotovich of Chicago. In southeastern Illinois' 19th District, Douglas E. Lee of Decatur won the GOP nomination with less than 51 percent of the vote to face Poshard in November; for Lee's opponent, Republican Paul Jurgens of Decatur, it was his third failure at nomination for Congress.
The worst may be past for the 10 Illinois Democratic congressional incumbents who survived the primary. Cox probably faces the sternest test. He runs as a one-term incumbent Democrat in the 16th District, which was drawn to lean toward Republicans. Manzullo, his Republican opponent, has well-established conservative credentials. He nearly won the nomination in 1990 and thrashed Schaffer, the establishment candidate, by 56 to 44 percent this spring.
After the primaries, both parties made certain no one had a free ride in November, placing candidates on the general election ballot when none had been nominated by primary. Incumbent Democrat Rostenkowski, now battling allegations about improper postal reimbursements, is opposed by (no kidding) Elias R. "Non-Incumbent" Zenkich in the 5th District. In the 7th District, incumbent Collins now faces Republican Norman G. Boccio of Chicago. Republican opponent to Democrat incumbent Costello in the llth District is Mike Start of Carbondale. Democratic incumbent Evans in the 17th District will be tested by Ken Schloemer, a restauranteur from Moline. Democratic incumbent Durbin in the 19th District is opposed by John Shimkus, a county treasurer and former teacher from Collinsville. Republicans also put up candidates to face the three nonincumbent Democrat nominees: In the 1st District, Democrat Rush faces Republican Jay Walker, an administrative law judge; in the 2nd District Reynolds's Republican opponent is Ron Blackstone of Homewood; and in the new Hispanic 4th District, Democrat Guttierrez is opposed by Republican Hildegarde Rodriguez-Schieman, a former public aid employee.
On the Republican side incumbents Hyde, Hastert, Ewing and Michel look safe for the time being. Hyde will be challenged in the 6th District by Barry W. Watkins, a computer company owner from Park Ridge. Hastert's GOP opponent in the 14th District is Jonathan Abram Reich, a minister from DeKalb who has declined to make an issue of Hastert's 44 bank overdrafts. Ewing in the 15th District meets Charles Mattis, a Danville teacher, who got nearly 20,000 votes in the contested GOP primary. House Republican Minority Leader Michel will be tested in the 10th District by Ronald C. Hawkins of South Pekin. A surveyor, Hawkins won the Democratic primary with 20,000 votes, defeating two other candidates.
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No Republican has a free ride since Democrats also put candidates on the November ballot when their primaries did not. Sheila A. Smith of Galena will face Republican incumbent Crane in the 8th District; Michael J. Kennedy of Highland Park will test Republican incumbent Porter in the 10th District; and Dennis Michael Temple of Downers Grove will oppose Republican incumbent Fawell in the 13th District. One other iffy candidate joined the lists late. Ronald (Ron) Bartos, a Chicagoan, filed by petition to run on the Illinois Solidarity Party ticket in the 8th District against Crane and Smith. An objection to Bartos' candidacy was before the Illinois State Board of Elections in early June.
The Illinois delegation will enter the 103rd Congress with one freshman senator and at least three freshman representatives. Between now and November many complications could cause congressional incumbents of both parties to lose the general election. If the presidential election is complicated by having Illinois' other U.S. senator, Paul Simon, on the ticket with Bill Clinton, Democratic support for the ticket may soar, helping Democratic congressional candidates across the state. If Ross Perot runs as an alternative to Clinton and Bush, voters might choose alternatives in other contests to the disadvantage of incumbents. If a constitutional amendment on state school funding brings out a huge pro-schools versus antitax turnout, the fallout is unpredictable for congressional candidates. If the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Braun and Republican Rich Williamson, both of Cook County, pits minorities and white liberals against suburban voters and white ethnics, there could be more trouble for congressional incumbents of both parties.
Looking beyond the November election and assuming that the electoral college vote settles the presidential outcome, it is reasonable to expect a spooked Congress convening in January. Whether the president is Bush, Clinton or Perot, Congress, with its many new members, will be itching to move aggressively. New members will want to take on health care, distribute the peace dividend, break the budget deadlock, address the rising national debt and respond to the urban demands that exploded out of Los Angeles to top the nation's agenda.
The new herd in the U.S. House of Representatives will not be deterred by leaders with 20 to 30 years of seniority. Senior Illinoisans such as Bob Michel, Dan Rostenkowski, Sid Yates and Phil Crane will have to run with the newcomers or be pushed aside like some of the old bulls were after the 1974 Watergate class came to Congress.
Illinoisans likely to benefit from the tide of newcomers, if they themselves can get reelected, are those well positioned by six to 12 years of experience: Democrats Durbin, Evans and Lipinski and Republicans Fawell, Hastert and Porter.
Dick Durbin is one of the "at large" members of the Democratic whip organization and a cochairman in the Democratic congressional campaign committee. He got on the Appropriations Committee in his second term and has worked more than one-fourth of the way up the Democratic seniority ladder (27th of 37 in 1991). He was one of five members from Appropriations who also served on the House Budget Committee. According to the rules he goes off the Budget Committee when the 102nd Congress adjourns, but the mastery he gained concerning the budget process will equip him well for future leadership on Appropriations, which is usually considered the top committee in the House pecking order. His prospects are strong to become a subcommittee chairman. With help from delegation colleagues like Rostenkowski and Yates, he could break into the House Democratic hierarchy very soon.
Denny Hastert has possibilities similar to Durbin's, but on the Republican side. Although Hastert's committee assignments are less impressive, one of them, Energy and Commerce, deals with core issues for Republicans. Hastert is a loyalist and a regular who is nonetheless flexible and accommodating to his colleagues. On his other committee, Government Operations, he is already fourth ranking among 15 Republicans and ranking minority member on one of its subcommittees. Not prestigious, this committee puts Hastert into an oversight role that provides opportunities to criticize "big government," the whipping boy of Republican rhetoric. In the party organization he has a place on the influential Committee on Committees and on the Policy Committee. He already serves as a regional whip. With Michel still at the top of the Republican hierarchy, Hastert's prospects for upward mobility are very promising.
Lane Evans has leverage on the Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committees, but they will be of declining significance in the defense build-down of the 1990s. Bill Lipinski, a quiet, steady Chicago Democrat, is already 13th of 34 Democrats on Public Works and Transportation. He is strategically positioned to serve the needs of Chicago and Illinois with roads, projects and infrastructure that are the perennial loaves and fishes of Chicago's regular Democrats. John Porter is a mid-ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee with subcommittee spots dealing with foreign operations and human services. He is in line to succeed the ranking Republican on the latter in 1993. Should Republicans ever become the House majority, his leverage over governmental spending will be greatly magnified. Republican Harris Fawell has run on a record of opposing pork barrel politics. He is a dedicated conservative partisan who has dealt forthrightly with tough ideological issues that are regularly assigned to his Education and Labor Committee. But his is often a lonely voice, and he is less well positioned than the others to make things happen in the House even if Republicans gain the majority.
The new Illinois delegation will have the vitality of new blood along with strategically placed mid-career members of both parties (assuming the sea change does not drown all incumbents).
Jack R. Van Der Slik is director of the Illinois Legislative Studies Center at Sangamon State University and editor of the Almanac of Illinois Politics — 1992. Support for research on the Illinois congressional delegation came from the Everett McKinley Dirksen Congressional Leadership Research Center in Pekin, Ill.