by Fran Eaton, IR Editor
Andrea Zinga, Republican candidate for U.S. Congress in the Quad-Cities area, is facing several formidable competitors during her second run for Congress.
One is her 17th Congressional District Democratic opponent Phil Hare, another is fellow Republicans vying to fill open seats in more Republican-leaning districts and yet another is GOP incumbents struggling to retain the seats they now hold.
The War in Iraq, gas prices at over $3.00 a gallon and a Republican President whose approval ratings are in the low 30s will make it tough to flip the 17th from Democrat to Republican this time around. The western Illinois district's illogically-drawn boundaries cause it to lean Democratic. Analysts say that in the current political climate, Republicans will be happy not to lose Congressional seats, as well as the majority.
So while Zinga appeals to constituents for votes, in this tight-fisted climate she finds herself reaching outside of the district for financial support. Such an attempt brought her to Chicago recently, where she had a chance to discuss issues with Illinois Review. . .
In general, 17th CD voters line up ideologically more with conservative-leaning Zinga than with Democratic incumbent Evans or Zinga's opponent, Evans’ former congressional aide, Phil Hare. Zinga, a 56-year-old Macomb native, lost to the ailing Evans in 2004 with 40 percent of the vote.
Zinga is pro-life, pro-Second Amendment and pro-traditional marriage. She supports making President Bush's tax cuts permanent and wants to minimize federal regulations on small businesses. She wants to secure the borders against illegal immigrants and terrorist threats. She supports the President on the War on Iraq.
All are fairly predictable positions for a conservative Republican to hold, but in Zinga's case, each one comes with a unique twist.
Zinga says that while she’s pro-traditional marriage, her respect for the U.S. Constitution gives her pause in supporting any amendments.
“The Constitution is a miraculous document. The Bill of Rights is there for a reason,” she said. “I’m not a big fan of amending the constitution.” Amending the constitution leads to an erosion of states’ rights, something she believes should be avoided.
That position pits her against the President, who advocates a federal amendment to establish the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.
“Marriage is a matter for the church and civil unions is a matter for the state,” she said. “More importantly, perhaps employers should be given the freedom to extend benefits to whoever they wish,” suggesting requiring health care for domestic partners is not the way to go.
Zinga, who believes life begins at conception, is strongly supportive of stem cell research with umbilical cord blood because, she says, “No human life is lost as it is with embryonic stem cell research.”
But, Zinga says she struggles with exceptions for abortion. “I don’t believe I would require a rape and incest exception be included in any legislation,” she said because “after all, the goal is to end as many abortions as possible.”
Zinga said government social programs really aren’t as bad as many conservatives think, but she does believe they should all contain a sunset clause and should be regularly reviewed as to their effectiveness.
“If they don’t work, we should get rid of them,” she said.
The issue of immigration is especially perplexing to Zinga.
“I favor securing borders to start,” she said, “But we can’t mass deport illegals. It’s just not possible.” She believes there should be provisions worked into immigration reform that take into consideration those illegals who have lived and worked here for a long time. “But we can’t give them everything if they broke the law when they entered the country,” she said.
She proposed a crackdown on illegal immigrants’ misuse of phony Social Security cards and suggested a more secure system with hologram, fingerprints or retina scans.
“These are complicated issues, and like many others, I’m in the process of figuring out the best way to correct the problem,” she said. “This may very well be the issue of our time.”
On the War on Iraq, Zinga believes we should stay the course. “But there may be a need to set a time when we would hope to have our troops home,” she said. Zinga credits the war on terrorism for the relative safety Americans share on their home soil.
Zinga would be at odds on these issues with the only other Republican woman in the Illinois delegation if she were to win Evans’ open seat. Congresswoman Judy Biggert of the 13th district holds more moderate views on social issues.
But that's not of concern to Zinga now. She's in a struggle to gain attention and the $1.3 million needed to run a campaign in the Quad Cities’-based district. Towards that goal, Zinga was in DuPage County for a political reception sponsored by GOP National Committeewoman Mary Jo Arndt. Zinga’s husband Chuck, a videographer she married during her 2004 bid for Congress, had accompanied her for the quick one-day swing into town.
“Andrea’s days consist of twelve to fourteen hours of campaign strategy meetings, fundraisers, answering emails, responding to reporters,” he said. “You’ve got to love talking to people and working long hours to do this right and you’ve got to be organized and you’ve really got to want it. Really, I don’t know how she does it.”
It’s pretty clear Mr. Zinga provides emotional and psychological support to his campaigning wife. One hint was how the two shared excitement when during our visit, a call came in from the Quad-Cities campaign office declaring the receipt of another $2100 contribution.
“Chuck’s been great all through this,” Zinga said.
Zinga said she was headed to D.C. the following day, “hat in hand,” looking for campaign donors and support. She’s well aware she'll have a tough job attracting campaign attention to a small Midwestern district drawn to favor Democrats, but with the sudden shifts in political winds these days, the Zinga-Hare 17th CD race could be the surprise of the year.
Such an upset with a veteran broadcast reporter as the candidate would certainly be a story featured on CNN. . .