Daily Herald
What do colleagues think of Roskam?
By Marni Pyke | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 11/7/2007 12:18 AM

As expected for someone with strong views, there's few lukewarm opinions on Peter Roskam.

The conservative Republican from Wheaton was elected to Congress one year ago and already is being targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as the 2008 election approaches.

Democratic Party officials launched a radio ad campaign recently criticizing Roskam for voting against a health insurance plan aimed at needy children, saying he was in "lockstep" with President Bush.

But when asked to evaluate his performance, his Democratic colleagues in the House were elusive.

One staff member put it down to the Thumper Principle, also known as "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

Republicans including moderates such as U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk of Highland Park and Judy Biggert of Hinsdale, however, said Roskam had hit the ground running.

Kirk said Roskam's background as a state senator eased the learning curve. And while, the two voted differently on issues such as funding for stem cell research, Roskam was a valuable ally on local concerns, Kirk noted.

"I need folks to work for the home team, who care about how to fix security at O'Hare or the loss of ash trees. The great thing about Peter is that he's not lost his local connections," Kirk said.

The one lone Democrat to comment on Roskam was Rep. Danny Davis of Chicago, who recalled the difficulty of rising out of the ranks during a first term.

"I think he's done all right," Davis said. "Peter is solid and involved and engaged."

Few people know more about poverty issues in the 6th District than Mary Ellen Durbin, director of the People's Resource Center in Wheaton, which runs a variety of services for the needy.

While crediting Roskam for helping the resource center in the past, Durbin said she was disappointed in his votes on children's health care and wants him to become more of an advocate for affordable housing.

Still, "I think there's a lot of hope for Peter Roskam," Durbin said. "He's a person who is thoughtful and tries to do what's right."

Regarding the health insurance plan, Roskam said he supports the concept but is concerned the bill would steer benefits to illegal immigrants, an argument which is disputed by Democrats.