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Money, desire fueled Republicans leaving 14th C District race
By James Fuller | Daily Herald Staff

Jeff Danklefsen


Mark Vargas


Ethan Hastert


Kevin Sherman | Staff Photographer

Randy Hultgren


Jim Purcell


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Published: 12/10/2009 12:01 AM | Updated: 1/15/2010 7:13 PM

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Nobody likes to be the bad guy when it comes to politics.

When a candidate is running without name recognition or the money to create a big bang, being the bad guy, or the spoiler, quickly can become all there is to achieve.

Such was the case with the trio of Republicans leaving the 14th Congressional District race within the past week. In the course of five days, a field of five Republicans looking to unseat Democrat Bill Foster became a two-man contest.

Jim Purcell, Mark Vargas and Jeff Danklefsen all dropped out with about the same amount of campaign funds they had when they entered the contest. That amounted to little more than what they had in their own pockets.

The two left standing - Ethan Hastert and Randy Hultgren - already are well into six figures with their fundraising.

Foster has more than $1 million in his campaign war chest.

Facing that kind of expensive fight, Purcell, Vargas and Danklefsen all said they were dropping out to give Republicans a legitimate chance to win.

"You almost have to be a sure thing if you want to pull in the dollars that are necessary to win," Danklefsen said Wednesday. "I'm not going to blame anyone but myself. I just wasn't able to pull in the dollars."

But it's hard to be labeled "a sure thing" if you're a virtual unknown with no previous political record or name recognition. Without those qualities, the only other path to winning is when voters can't decide among the favorites and go with an alternate candidate seen as the compromise. Purcell, Vargas and Danklefsen did not present themselves as being different enough from Hastert or Hultgren to create that profile, leaving them positioned as vote stealers rather than winners.

Danklefsen said he didn't consider dropping out until Vargas dropped out for that very reason.

"I just thought the more guys who were in it, the better chance I had," Danklefsen said. "I don't want to be left as the spoiler. Even people who liked me after the Republican forum may not have voted for me because they have to support the establishment."

Staying in the race too long can mean never getting the support of the "establishment" if the end result is Foster winning because of Republican squabbling. Hence, Purcell left the race saying it was to keep his options open; Vargas retired his campaign, saying it just wasn't his time; and Danklefsen bowed out saying he didn't have the support of the establishment.

Kane County Republican Party Chairman Mike Kenyon said he wasn't surprised by their decisions.

"You look at those people, and I just didn't know how they were going to do it," Kenyon said. "For instance, if you chose Danklefsen, how much chance is he going to have to raise money against Bill Foster? A lot of our choice is not only who is the best candidate, but who has the best chance to win. Hultgren and Hastert have found it easier to raise money than the rest of them. There's hardly any perfect candidate that satisfies everybody. But this should make the choices easier now."