House: OH's Schmidt is the gift that keeps giving and Halvorson faces ethics trouble

At this point of the congressional campaign season, races are heating up and candidates are engaging themselves. That means we can cover more than recruitment news and poll numbers and note some developing campaign story lines.

In IL-11, one of the top Democratic pick-up opportunities of the cycle in which it took months after the primary for Republicans to even find a candidate, Debbie Halvorson is having some unexpected trouble, as the GOP is attempting to connect her to developer Tony Resko, made famous by the presidential race and the South Carolina debate. Rezko was a close adviser to Governor Blagojevich at the time Halvorson was the state Senate's Majority Leader and Republicans contend that he might have influenced Halvorson's legislative work.

Now, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is partly supporting the Republicans' accusation as he has written a column detailing Rezko's attempt to convince him to sponsor a reform that was later written in a bill proposed by Halvorson. The Hill notes, "Asked if it might hurt Halvorson’s election hopes, Jackson said principle and 15,000 private-sector jobs mattered more." It is rare for a lawmaker to stand on principle when it comes to ethical matters, so good for Jackson to have the courage to call out a member of his own party. Electorally, of course, this could complicate things for Democrats in a seat they are expected to win. Barack Obama's presence at the head of the ballot complicates things further for Republicans as he should drive turnout in his home state. Whether the GOP can exploit Halvorson's weakness depends on whether the party has the funds to contest any seat in Illinois and whether Republican candidate Ozlinga self-funds his candidacy.

Elsewhere in Illinois, GOP Rep. Kirk of IL-10 has released an internal poll showing him leading by a significant margin:

  • Kirk is ahead of challenger Dan Seals 53% to 32%, with the margin unchanged since March's poll by the same group that showed him leading 50% to 29%.
This is a rematch of the 2006 race, which Kirk won 53% to 47%. Democrats have high hopes for IL-10, which is one of the only districts won by John Kerry currently represented by a Republican. In this year's political climate and with Obama at the top of the ticket, Kirk has an even bigger target on his back. So is this huge lead believable? Republicans will say that it is, as Kirk (who was mostly taken by surprise two years ago) has been preparing himself for this rematch since the early days of the cycle. In fact, he has raised the most funds of any House Republicans and, while Seals will have enough to keep things interesting, money is a major factor in the district's expensive media market. Yet, this is an internal poll and the results are such that they should be taken with a grain of salt.

Finally, the days final round of news concerns OH-02, the heavily Republican district represented by Jean Schmidt which the GOP has had so much trouble holding on to in a special election in 2005 and in the 2006 general election. Schmidt has been known for outrageous statements (she infamously called Rep. Murtha a coward on the House floor) that have weakened her in her district and have left her open to surprisingly vigorous Democratic challenges. Victoria Wulsin, who lost a nail-biter in 2006, is once again the Democratic nominee and Schmidt voices some stunning accusations against her in a recent fundraising letter:

Wulsin's contempt for the culture of life has even led her to participate in grotesque medical experiments. Wulsin was paid for her work in medical "studies" where victims of AIDS in Africa and China were, without their consent, injected with the malaria virus, all in the name of "scientific inquiry."

If Schmidt actually believed what she was saying, would she content herself with inserting it in a fundraising plea? Does she even realize the seriousness of what she is accusing her opponent of having performed and what effect it could have on the district's electorate? Perhaps not, as injecting human patients with the malaria virus is more than just grotesque. TPM notes that the source of this accusation might be a literature review Wulsin was asked to conduct for an Ohio medical institute and for which she reviewed the data of pre-existing studies -- including some that correspond to Schmidt's description.

If there is more to this than this defense and if there is anything true to Schmidt's accusation, Wulsin will face some serious trouble. But if there is nothing to this, then Schmidt will have to explain herself and can expect another wave of bad publicity. For Democrats, Jean Schmidt is the gift that just keeps giving. Note, however, that 2008 is the first presidential general election in which Schmidt will be on the ballot and that should boost her since OH-02 is heavily Republican.


  • Victoria Wulsin has led a very positive and energetic campaign as opposed to that run by "Mean Jean."

    When will we get past dirty politics? I guess when negativity is found not to work. Be patient.

    I was not in the district in 2006, but I understand that "Vic" lost by a hair. On meeting Vic recently, I was won over quickly.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 13 June, 2008 08:58  

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