The Illinois 8th congressional district election of 2006 took place on November 7, 2006, and was considered unusual in several ways. The two main candidates in the election for the United States House of Representatives were incumbent Melissa Bean of the Democratic Party and Republican Party candidate David McSweeney, joined by third-party candidate Bill Scheurer, running as a self-proclaimed "moderate." McSweeney emerged as a candidate from a crowded and often brutal six-way Republican primary, and Bean was unopposed in the Democratic primary. As the 8th congressional district, covering parts of McHenry County, Cook County and most of Lake County, is considered to lean conservative, the United States Republican Party targeted the district as a high priority for recapture in the 2006 elections. However, Bean defeated McSweeney by a nearly five percent margin during a national election which proved unfavorable to Republicans nationwide.
The 8th congressional district of Illinois had long leaned toward the Republican Party, and was considered to be the most Republican-leaning congressional district in Illinois. As of 2002, the district had been represented by Phil Crane for 33 years. Democratic challenger Melissa Bean criticized Crane, who had once been one of the leading voices of American conservatism, of having become a "do-nothing" congressman, pointing to the large number of lobbyist-funded trips the congressman had taken during his later terms in office. Bean lost the 2002 election, but received over 40% of the vote. This total shocked many political experts, as not only had the district been considered to be strongly Republican, but Bean had received almost no funding from the national arm of the Democratic Party. Bean ran against Crane again in 2004, leveling many of the same accusations that she had in her 2002 campaign. Bean won, obtaining 52% of the vote.
Bean's victory was considered to be a decisive upset in a district once considered to be reliably conservative. Making Bean's victory even more important for the Democratic Party was the fact that the Party lost seats in the House elsewhere in the country, meaning Bean's victory somewhat softened the Party's overall net defeat in the 2004 elections, which saw the reelection of Republican President George W. Bush as well as a net Republican gain in both the House and the Senate. Given their overall dominance in the 2004 elections and a congressional district they still saw as conservative, the Republican Party marked Bean's district as one of their top priorities in the upcoming 2006 House elections.
2006 was the first election in the 8th congressional district following Melissa Bean’s upset defeating the longtime incumbent Republican Phil Crane. The heavily Republican congressional district attracted many primary challengers. The candidates included David McSweeney, Kathy Salvi, Aaron Lincoln, Robert Churchill, Ken Arnold, and James Creighton Miller.
Issues which played an important part in the Republican primary were illegal immigration, stem cell research, and gay marriage, all candidates opposed. The main differences between the candidates on these issues are in their various approaches of how to deal with or ban these practices.
The 2006 Republican primary for the 8th congressional district was highly contested, with six candidates. David McSweeney garnered 43% of the vote, winning by 10 points over his closest opponent, Kathy Salvi. During the course of the campaign the McSweeney and Salvi campaigns used negative ads against one another. Salvi criticized McSweeney, claiming he raised taxes two years in a row, increased spending by 28%, and added 20% more employees while serving as a Trustee for Palatine Township. McSweeney responded with a television ad stating "Kathy Salvi is lying".
In a Chicago Sun-Times article, movement conservative Tom Roeser wrote "Because McSweeney is a social conservative, the skittish Illinois establishment GOP would like to run someone else."
Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) of the neighboring 10th district, supported Teresa Bartels, a moderate, during the Republican primary. Kirk believed that David McSweeney could not win the district, with a conservative being easily defeated by the incumbent Melissa Bean. However, Bartels dropped out before the primary. Kirk reluctantly supported David McSweeney in his race against Melissa Bean.
Third party involvement
On October 27, 2005, Bill Scheurer, an editor and publisher from Lindenhurst, announced his intention to run as an Independent. Scheurer identified himself with the "Moderate Party," which does not actually exist at a national level in the United States, but nonetheless has formed the basis of his campaign. Scheurer, who ran in the 2004 Democratic Primary in the 8th district, has accused incumbent Democrat Bean of being too conservative, and therefore failing to offer her constituents a clear alternative to Republican McSweeney's candidacy. Among the criticisms Scheurer has leveled at Bean are Bean's support for the Central American Free Trade Agreement, the repealing of the estate tax, a Constitutional Amendment to ban flag burning, the USA PATRIOT Act, and controversial Sensenbrenner anti-illegal immigration bill. Scheurer has stated that he would have voted against all of these proposals.
The 2006 8th congressional district race can be considered unusual, as the United States has been dominated by a two-party system for over two hundred years. The viable candidacies of three separate opponents made this a highly unusual election, especially in the United States House of Representatives, which saw nearly 98% of incumbent representatives reelected in the 2004 election.
Melissa Bean, of Barrington was the incumbent representative of the 8th district, having displaced Phil Crane in the 2004 election. Bean is considered to be one of the more conservative Democrats currently serving in the House, having voted the Democratic Party line only 79.5% during the first 18 months of her term. Only 26 Democratic Representatives, out of 201 serving during her first term, had more conservative voting records. Bean identifies as a Blue Dog Democrat, meaning she tends to be slightly more socially conservative, and much more fiscally conservative, than other Democrats in the House. Indeed, Bean was one of the few Democratic supporters of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, a move which cost her the endorsement of the AFL-CIO. She also voted to extend a package of tax cuts passed by the Republican-controlled congress, a dramatic break from the Democratic Party's official position on the cuts. However, her fiscally conservative voting record earned Bean the endorsement of the United States Chamber of Commerce. The organization, composed mainly of small businesses, rarely endorses Democrats, feeling that the positions advocated by the Party are harmful to businesses.
In her candidacy, Bean focused on the fiscal and environmental side of politics, rather than on controversial social issues. Bean's campaign website mentioned little in the way of her views on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Instead, the website mentioned her work to protect middle class working families and help small businesses, as well as protect the environment. However, as Bean was endorsed by the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council in her 2004 election bid, it is likely that she is pro-choice. Other endorsements of Bean included those from the United Auto Workers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Sierra Club, the American Federation of Teachers, the Chicago Tribune, and the Chicago Sun-Times.
David McSweeney, an investment banker from Barrington Hills, was Bean's Republican challenger, after having emerged on top of a crowded six-way primary. McSweeney is considered to be a strong conservative in both the fiscal and social sense. McSweeney stated his strong opposition to abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, and illegal immigration. McSweeney was endorsed by many local newspapers in the Republican primary. McSweeney outlined his platform as "A Common Sense Conservative Platform," advocating many of the positions held by the mainstream of the United States Republican Party. For example, in addition to his socially conservative principles, McSweeney supports the "War on Terror" as well as fiscally conservative notions such as freezing the size of the United States Government and cutting unnecessary government programs. McSweeney has been endorsed by a variety of conservative political institutions, including the Illinois Federation for Right to Life. In response misleading attacks from primary opponents, David McSweeney clarified his pro-life position in 2005 during an interview on the Public Affairs with Jeff Berkowitz. "Jeff, I haven't changed my position... I strongly believe that we need to eliminate abortions in this county."
McSweeney is a Lutheran and had said that faith shapes his political beliefs. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Duke University in 1987 and a master of business administration degree from the Duke Fuqua School of Business in 1988. McSweeney worked for Banc of America Securities until April 2005. He claims a net worth in the millions.
In 1998, McSweeney challenged incumbent Republican Phil Crane in Republican primary for the 8th Congressional District. McSweeney lost by a large margin, with 34.53% of the votes vs. Crane's 65.47%.
McSweeney at his concession speech indicated his intention to return to the business world, though he may be looking to run for the seat again in 2010.
Bill Scheurer, a third party candidate, ran under the banner of the "Moderate Party," which does not exist on a national level.
Scheurer, who had run as a Democrat in 2004, entered the race as an independent after he felt that both Melissa Bean and David McSweeney were too conservative. He criticized Bean more harshly in his campaign than he did McSweeney, asserting that Bean's frequent pro-business votes in Congress are an abandonment of Democratic Party ideals. The focus of Scheurer's campaign was fiscal issues: balancing the federal budget, fixing the United States health care system, and reducing the national debt.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in religious studies in 1972 and a JD in 1976, both from the State University of New York at Buffalo, Scheurer became a clerk for the New Jersey Superior Court, and then an associate for the law firm of Shanley & Fisher. In 1978, he moved to Lindenhurst, Illinois (where he presently resides) and was hired as associate counsel for the insurance company Allstate. In 1983 he left his position at Allstate to become president and chief executive officer of Harbinger International. He has since served in those same positions at Welcome America (from 1988 to 1999) and PocketCard Incorporated (from 1999 to 2001). He is currently the owner of Hourglass Books, a publishing house.
According to his official campaign biography, Scheurer has also been a lay minister.
On October 27, 2005, Scheurer announced that he would challenge Bean for re-election. Since he believed that he could not win the Democratic primary, he further announced that he would form a new party, the "Moderate Party," for the purpose of his campaign. Calling Bean a "Bush Democrat," Sheurer has made the Iraq War the central issue of his campaign, along with universal health care, a balanced budget, and protecting "working families" through a living wage, fair trade, and a crackdown on illegal immigration.
Scheurer, who calls himself a "progressive conservative," also adheres to the consistent life ethic, meaning that he is opposed to both legalized abortion and capital punishment. During the campaign, he has called for American withdrawal from NAFTA, CAFTA, and other free trade deals; an end to the War on Drugs; clean elections; the withdrawal of American troops from foreign nations like Germany and South Korea and their reassignment to border control; and the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Scheurer's trade and economic views, combined with the perception by organized labor that Bean, elected on a similar platform, has betrayed them with pro-free trade votes, has meant that Scheurer has received financial and organizational backing from such important unions as UNITE HERE, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Service Employees International Union, and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.
A longtime progressive activist, Scheurer has been active in many political organizations having to do with peace issues, homelessness, civil rights, and human rights. He is the editor of the Peace Majority Report, an online newsletter for peace and anti-war activism.
In 2004, he made his first run for elected office, in what he now describes as a "one-issue campaign" for Congress in Illinois's 8th congressional district, the one issue being his opposition to the Iraq War. Although he received 7,504 votes (22%) in the Democratic Party primary, he was soundly defeated by Melissa Bean, who went on to defeat the Republican incumbent, Phil Crane, in the general election.
General election campaign
Scheurer participated in only one debate with both Bean and McSweeney, although he and McSweeney participated together in several others. A poll released on October 29, 2006 showed Scheurer with 8% of the vote, compared with 42% for Bean and 39% for McSweeney. The poll showed Scheurer with 20% of the independent vote. On November 3, four days before the election, Scheurer received his first national media coverage, being featured on the CNN newsmagazine program Lou Dobbs Tonight.
Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times, reported in April 2006 that "the 8th District Bean-McSweeney race is one of a handful in the nation that could determine which party controls Congress."
In June 2006, the Cook Political Report, an independent non-partisan newsletter, rated the race for Illinois' 8th Congressional District as "Lean Democratic", meaning Melissa Bean had the advantage.
McSweeney is a conservative Republican. He supports finishing the War on Terror and the Iraq War. McSweeney also promises to make President Bush's tax cuts permanent, to offer tax cuts to companies that invest in new jobs and workers. He is opposed to raising the federal minimum wage, currently $5.15 an hour. McSweeney vows to try and freeze the total amount of federal spending, excluding national security, homeland security, and social security.
McSweeney is pro-life and opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is at stake. McSweeney also opposes embryonic stem cell research, instead favoring research on umbilical cord blood. He supports 2nd Amendment rights and opposes a ban on semi-automatic firearms. McSweeney supports carrying concealed weapon. McSweeney opposes same-sex marriage as well as civil unions for gay couples and is in favor of amending the Constitution to ban sex same marriages.
McSweeney argues that a wall should be built along part of the 2,000-plus-mile U.S.-Mexican border, focusing on the urban areas.
McSweeney favors means-testing as a way to reduce the cost of Medicare Part D, which is the prescription drug benefit. McSweeney said, "I believe we need to means-test the Part D prescription drug program that was just adopted by Congress."
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) first-quarter (Jan. 1-March 31) report notes that McSweeney loaned $1,901,500 of his own money to his campaign. McSweeney raised $619,201 during the first quarter, but due to an expensive primary was left with only $146,953 cash on hand. Bean has raised $2.27 million this cycle to date including $536,000 raised in the first quarter of 2006. Bean was uncontested in the primary and has the benefit of $1.75 million cash on hand.
McSweeney has received few PAC contributions. As of March 31, 2006, only six PAC contributions exceeded $1,000. Among individual contributors, Mike Ditka is the biggest name.
Per FEC records, McSweeney contributed to Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan's campaign. McSweeney has donated to multiple PACs.
Although Bean was considered vulnerable due to her majority Republican district, she won reelection with slightly more than 50 percent of the vote. She won in each county represented in her district.