by Fran Eaton, IR Editor
With last week’s sudden departure of candidate Teresa Bartels, David McSweeney is one of now six Republicans in the 8th Congressional District vying for the opportunity to unseat Democratic incumbent Melissa Bean.
McSweeney, 39, retired last spring from investment banking to campaign full time. While carefully guarding inside polling numbers, McSweeney says he “feels positive” about his position in the race.
Observers say McSweeney is the person to beat in the GOP nomination race, clearly ahead of the next two closest opponents, Mundelein attorney Kathy Salvi and 20 year veteran State Rep. Bob Churchill. Ken Arnold, Aaron Lincoln and James Mitchell, Jr. are also candidates in the race.
Having placed almost $1 million of his own cash into the campaign, McSweeney points out that he has also raised $450,000 in a multi-candidate primary, a fairly impressive feat. As a matter of fact, McSweeney’s fundraising this cycle has earned him second place in the nation for congressional race fundraising.
The campaign has already mailed out 14 pieces and is now running cable TV ads. McSweeney claims he has knocked on over 2500 8th District doors.
When asked his thoughts about whether a woman would have a better chance in challenging a vulnerable female incumbent, McSweeney is unruffled.
“We need the best candidate – man OR woman – to challenge Melissa Bean,” he said. “What makes me the best? My business experience, my history of community involvement and my commitment and ability to communicate Ronald Reagan’s principles.”
There’s no doubt that McSweeney is doing just what he says he is doing. He has a plan, he says, and he is working his plan to become the next U.S. Representative to Congress from Chicago's far north and northwest suburban district.
But there’s a primary on March 21, before the General Election in November. Fellow GOP candidates voice frustration with McSweeney’s strategy of addressing the incumbent and ignoring his fellow primary contenders at candidate forums.
Such criticism doesn’t deter McSweeney. “You can’t be thin-skinned in this business. I am committed to a goal, and I’m not going to get thrown off the mark by responding to opponents' remarks,” McSweeney said. “This is going to be an issues-based campaign, and I’m staying focused on how Melissa Bean and I are different.”
This isn’t the first time McSweeney has run for Congress. Both he and Peter Fitzgerald ran in the district in 1998, challenging then-incumbent Phil Crane. McSweeney has been criticized for not helping the thirty-year incumbent to maintain his seat in 2004. Those accusations are false, McSweeney says.
“I wrote letters to precinct captains and committeemen, endorsed Crane and held a fundraiser for Denny Hastert, who in turn helped the Crane campaign,” he said.
But McSweeney says that entrenched lawmakers are a serious problem in today’s politics.
“We need citizen politicians, those who will serve their country in Congress, then settle back in the private sector,” McSweeney said. He promises he will not serve more than three terms as a congressman. “I will remain independent and not be controlled by special interests,” he said.
McSweeney believes that current “culture of corruption” accusations toward Republicans could be redirected if Congress was to pass a law banning any former federal lawmakers from becoming lobbyists.
“Until this current situation is changed, we will continue to have huge budgets and deficits,” McSweeney said. He advocates Congress cut their own operational costs by 25% (or $3.8 billion) and end any travel junkets not directly related to government business.
While McSweeney is focused on winning the March 21 primary, he says he does take time to exercise for thirty minutes each morning in his basement workout center and relaxes by spending time with his family, reading and watching football.
This year’s Super Bowl is the first he and his wife Margaret have not attended, he said. “I’m rooting for the Seahawks because [Bill] Holmgren is a good coach and the Seahawks have never won a Super Bowl,” he said.
McSweeney says he finds the biggest challenge of campaigning to be managing the demands on his limited time.
“We have to make choices between attending different events and fundraising, knocking on doors, as well as keeping in touch with family,” he said. His wife of fourteen years and two daughters, 10 and 12, live in Barrington.
Those two daughters are a major reason why he wants to go to Congress, he said. He’s concerned about the growing national debt being passed on to them and their generation, and whether traditional family values will be able to flourish when they are adults.
“Strong family values is a key part of my campaign,” McSweeney said. He has been endorsed by the Illinois Federation for Right to Life and supports the ongoing effort to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
McSweeney has also been endorsed by four GOP township organizations in the district thus far – Schaumburg, Palatine, Barrington and Cuba. He has served as committeeman himself in the local GOP. He says he espouses traditional Republican platform planks that most observers would consider as conservative.
“We need to keep taxes low, cut unnecessary spending and clean up political corruption, a Ronald Reagan message,” McSweeney said.
And that message is a very tidy one, right on target and in the process of execution according to McSweeney’s plan, a plan he intends to lead to victory on March 21 and again on November 7, 2006.