The following excerpt is taken from the book entitled Integrity of Faith: A Testimony of Perseverance and Hope. Integrity of Faith is my life story outlined along the lines of a statement I made when I resigned from the office of Chaplain with the National Black Republican Association which said, “I serve because of my relationship with my Savior. I am a Christian first, a father second, a minister and scholar third, and a Black man fourth, and then a Republican. Heaven help me if I ever get these out of order."
That quote found its way into the Washington Times newspaper in 2005. It became the inspiration for the outline of my book. The excerpt below is from the chapter called "The Republican." It looks at my 2006 run for State Senate and gives thanks to those who had the courage to fight along side me in the South Suburbs.
by Eric Wallace, PhD
One of the bright spots of my 2006 campaign for state senator was finding people who really wanted to support the effort. One such person called me on the phone. She wanted to meet and talk to me about running for state senate against liberal Democratic State Senator Maggie Crotty.
We met at Cracker Barrel for breakfast. What I didn’t know was that I was being vetted for possible support by United Republican Fund (URF), a state political action committee. Fran Eaton, one of the URF’s board advisors, questioned me on a number of issues over eggs and toast. I evidently passed, because it wasn’t long before I was appearing before the URF’s executive director Dennis LaComb and gears were set into motion to be one of the PACs selected "Six in '06" candidates.
Somewhere during that process I declared my intention to run for State Senate in the 19th District. The Republican State Senate Campaign Committee (RSSCC) promised to pay for my walk cards and provide $25,000 for my run, part of which would go toward a mailing.
I attended every RSSCC fundraising event I possibly could, traveled at their request to Washington DC and met with GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman, US Senator John McCain and then-U.S. House Speaker Denny Hastert. I became acquainted with State Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, Republican state senators Christine Radogno, Steve Rauschenberger and Dale Righter. The ILGOP should be proud of these state senators. They are all good people and very competent at their jobs. I admire them all.
I would also mention State Senator Dan Rutherford of Cheoa, who attended a few fundraisers, and State Senator Chris Lauzen who gave me my first check ($1,000) toward my senatorial run and spoke at one of my fundraisers. These men and women carry the mandate for a fiscal responsibility and corruption-free government. My hat is off to each of them.
Needless to say, the good senators’ support was not enough to make a dent in the heavily Democratic south suburban district in which I lived. It would take another organization that would help me become competitive and put fear in the heart of my opponent for the first time.
URF: Help in the time of need
The United Republican Fund (URF) would pick my race as one they would highlight and support as one of six candidates in 2006. My race was chosen as one to support, not because it was one that would definitely be won, but because the board members believed in the candidate. They supported the message that Eric Wallace espoused and agreed it needed to be heard in places where Republican ideas are seldom championed.
URF Chairman State Senator Rauschenberger warned me to take a long-term strategy, suggesting it would take two or three cycles before we could unseat the incumbent. Of course, I was not buying what he was selling.
I thought he may be right, but I had to try to prove him wrong. I had to work as though it were possible to win now, rather than later. To the URF, our race was an investment in the future. For me it was an endorsement of the message and the messenger.
If you have never run for office in a tough district, you don’t know how lonely it can be. One of the greatest assets the URF gave to me, besides fundraising, was the help of a college intern named Brian Ferkaluk. The URF supported Brian and “gifted” him to help me in my campaign. If it were not for the college junior’s assistance, I would not have knocked on as many doors or worked the various crowds as hard as we did, or made the impact that we made in the South Suburbs. Together, Brian and I and a growing number of supporters knocked on doors that had never been touched on a campaign. We went where no Republican had gone before. We let people know a two-party system in Cook County Illinois was not dead, contrary to popular belief.
Our presence allowed people to see that the GOP had not forgotten about them, and were simply asking for their support. While many in the GOP had written the South Suburbs off, including the Cook County leadership, the URF involvement helped to spread the message that choice in education, lower taxes and economic development were concerns Eric Wallace would champion.
The message started to resonate with those who heard it. Unfortunately, not enough people heard the message because there was not enough money to broadcast it in the expensive Chicago media market. Few believed we could turn the tide in southern Cook County because they didn’t think district voters would grasp the message of hope and energy.
But those naysayers were wrong, because many did listen and respond. A number of people told me they voted for a Republican that election for the first time in their lives. Black and white voters said they were independent and uncommitted to any party. All were voters the GOP had neglected over the years. It was no wonder they didn’t vote for Republicans. They had never seen one up close.
The URF’s investment was the first step in changing the perception that the GOP does not care about people in the South Suburbs.
Although I lost by a considerable margin, it was not due to the fact that people didn’t agree with the message. It was because people, Democrats and Republicans, were reacting to the war on terrorism and the President’s apparent unwillingness to listen to the electorate.
It’s disturbing and unfair that the average person does not distinguish between local or state politics and national politics. In 2006, most saw “Republican” and reacted negatively. We had no control over that. Nor did the countless other Republicans who lost in that election, especially those who were supposed to win. I still received over 23% of the vote for that district, which says a lot for a bad year to run as a Republican and for a first time candidate.
To be continued