As she seeks re-election in Illinois' 8th House District, U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean's name is being invoked in a congressional race some 1,700 miles away in Arizona.
That's where Eric Wnuck, a Republican seeking his party's nomination for the 5th House District seat, has been criticized for creating a campaign advertisement similar to one Bean aired when she ran in 2006.
In the piece, which is viewable at ericwnuck2010.com and on YouTube, several people who aren't the candidate proclaim "I am Eric Wnuck."
It resembles a Bean video in which several people cheerily announce "I'm Melissa Bean" before the Barrington Democrat herself makes an appearance.
Jennifer Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Democratic Party, called the Wnuck spot plagiarism. But she also acknowledged the line had been used before Bean's ad, including in the classic film "Spartacus" and a Nike advertisement starring golfer Tiger Woods.
"It's almost like chain plagiarism," Johnson said. "If anything, it tips people off that they're not getting a lot of substance (with Wnuck)."
Wnuck, a former Kenosha resident who worked at CDW in Buffalo Grove and Vernon Hills before moving to Arizona about eight years ago, called the criticism "comical."
He said he never saw the Bean ad before the current kerfuffle.
"It's just a matter of coincidence," Wnuck said.
Bean's office was somewhat amused by the controversy and not concerned about the 46-second video.
"Without knowing anything about the gentleman, I think the congresswoman would remark that imitation is always the sincerest form of flattery," spokesman Jonathan Lipman said.
Wnuck is one of three Republicans running for the 5th District seat in the Tempe, Ariz., area. The state's 2010 primary election is in August.
The first shot against Wnuck's ad was fired earlier this month by Seth Scott, a former campaign manager for Democratic incumbent Harry Mitchell, who's represented the 5th District since 2006. Scott no longer works for the Mitchell team but talked about Wnuck's video on his Facebook page.
"It's a brilliant idea for an ad," Scott wrote. "But I liked it much better when I saw it three years ago, when it was aired by Rep. Melissa Bean, D-Ill."
Scott's musings were reprinted on a slew of Web sites and reported Dec. 6 by The Arizona Republic newspaper.
Wnuck campaign manager Sean McMaster was surprised by Scott's post, especially since it's so early in the Arizona election season.
He was flattered people noticed the ad, let alone commented on it.
"On the positive side, it's definitely getting us press," McMaster said. "It's a win-win for the campaign. It's definitely increased our (Web site) traffic."
Mitchell campaign spokesman Adam Bozzi was aware of the ad but declined to comment on it. Mitchell "will wait and see who emerges from what is expected to be a long, negative, and crowded Republican primary late next year," Bozzi said.
The Democratic Party's Johnson had no such reservations. She called Wnuck's ad "cheesy" and doubts it's helping him in Arizona.
"This video shows that he's deliberately carpetbagged some media ideas from out of state," she said.
Wnuck said the accusations are hollow.
"I didn't even know who Melissa Bean was," he said.
Bean first was elected to Congress in 2002 and is seeking a fourth term. She is the lone Democrat in the race.
Six Republicans and a Green Party candidate are running for Bean's seat, too.