A more humble Jim Oberweis will kick off his congressional bid today stressing a continued focus on tax cuts and illegal immigration and his desire to follow in retiring U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert's footsteps by "being part of a team."
"We are going to talk about the great job Denny Hastert did," said Sugar Grove's Oberweis, who is seeking to succeed the former House speaker. "He did it by not always seeking credit for things, but by being quiet, unassuming and working behind the scenes. By being a coach. I would like to carry on that tradition."
Oberweis is scheduled to address family, friends and supporters at his namesake dairy and asset management headquarters in North Aurora this afternoon as he begins a bid to win the Republican nomination in the 14th Congressional District.
Leading the speech will be his business background leading two profitable companies and his desire to make President Bush's tax cuts permanent if elected.
"We ought to make it clear to people that's what we're going to do so they can expand their businesses and provide more jobs and opportunity," Oberweis said.
Immigration has been a political landmine for Oberweis -- a much-criticized 2004 campaign ad featured him in a helicopter decrying "illegal aliens" filling up Soldier Field, an ad Oberweis later admitted was "too harsh" -- but it's a topic he plans to revisit in this campaign.
His approach is to suggest the nation first needs to secure its borders to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and punish companies who hire them. If that's achieved, the political landscape would be "much more flexible" in coming up with a solution to address the 12 million-plus people already here illegally.
With the Iraq war a dominant issue in next year's election, Oberweis takes the view that the U.S. will start bringing troops home within six months because that's what military leaders will recommend. At least some troops will need to remain for 10 years or more as Iraqis start taking over responsibility for their country, said Oberweis, arguing "that's the right approach."
Oberweis, 61, who recently remarried a woman he knew growing up, said he's a "wiser, more experienced candidate" than in his previous two runs for U.S. Senate and last year's run for governor. In those past races, he's drawn criticism for displaying a political tin ear on abortion and immigration.
"I'm an entrepreneur at heart and entrepreneurs make mistakes. But good ones learn from their mistakes," he told the Daily Herald. "I think I'll be a better candidate as a result of learning, but beyond that, I think I'll be a better public servant as well."
Politically, Oberweis starts out in a strong position. Pledging to spend $2.5 million of his own money in the primary, he is likely to be the best-funded candidate on either side.
In addition, Oberweis has a head start on name recognition after three statewide campaigns since 2002 in which he finished second in each primary.
He's also a proven vote-getter in the most populous portion of the district, winning Kane County two out of three times and Kendall and DeKalb counties all three times, state election records show.
On the Republican side, Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns kicked off his campaign last weekend, with Aurora state Sen. Chris Lauzen expected to do so soon. The Democratic primary features Geneva scientist and millionaire Bill Foster, Geneva attorney Jotham Stein and 2006 nominee John Laesch of Kendall County.