California’s 8th U.S. House District
Dennis vs. Pelosi
When he is introduced at Republican functions around California, San Francisco businessman John Dennis usually delivers what he calls “one of the shortest campaign speeches in history.”
His speech: “I’m running against Nancy Pelosi.”
It gets a rousing reception. The 47-year-old Dennis is carrying the Republican banner in the San Francisco-based 8th District against its 23-year U.S. representative, now the most powerful Democrat in the House.
Brave Republican souls in the past have explained their running as against Speaker Pelosi as a desire to witness rather than win. Dennis, however, insists, “I am running to win” and has so far raised $1.7 million from more than 34,000 contributors nationwide.
There are differences between Dennis and past GOP candidates. The Jersey City native and Fordham University graduate was a highly successful businessman before running for Congress. He started and later sold the HumanScale company, which made ergonomic office chairs, and which is now grossing $200 million a year.
In addition, Dennis prefers the self-description “libertarian conservative” to “conservative.” (“I read Ayn Rand in college and that changed me completely”) and, as he puts it, “allows me to go where other Republicans couldn’t and haven’t gone in the past.” Like his hero, Ron Paul, Dennis opposes the Patriot Act and the U.S. action in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, like Paul and many libertarian conservatives, he favors making major cuts to the Department of Education and just about every other federal agency to finally put America in the black.
But Dennis’s major issue is that he is running against one of the premier leftist architects of most of what he opposes. Because of the financial support he is attracting as well as the fact he appears to be such a long shot, the GOP hopeful has the luxury of having fun in the campaign. One of his widely viewed TV spots has him rescuing little Dorothy and Toto by throwing water on the Wicked Witch of the West—who is Pelosi. In another, he is a dashing secret agent (“Dennis. John Dennis”) facing off against villainess “Pelosi Galore.”
“Yes, I’m having fun in this race,” says the candidate, “but I also take my responsibilities as a father of a four-year-old daughter seriously. And that’s why I’m running. If we don’t stop Nancy Pelosi, all the debt she is helping to run up today will paid for by our children tomorrow.”
(John Dennis for Congress, 1592 Union St., San Francisco, Calif. 94123)
Colorado’s U.S. Senate Race
Buck vs. Bennet
When conservative Ken Buck swept the Republican State Convention in his bid for the U.S. Senate this year, many politically savvy observers throughout Colorado were stunned. After all, his opponent had a more than 3-to-1 spending advantage, as well as backing from much of the party establishment.
Then Buck won the primary with about 52% of the vote. Again, his opponent had the money and the endorsements. Weld County District Attorney Buck had the backing of traditional grass-roots conservatives, the pro-life movement, and the newer Tea Partiers.
“And I worked hard and wore out a lot of shoe leather,” recalled Buck. “That, and the fact that this is a time for a non-establishment conservative candidate, is what led to my nomination.” He also recalled how gracious his opponent was in endorsing him after he won the primary.
Hard work is something that has long been a part of Ken Buck’s life. He worked his way through Princeton as a ranch hand, truck driver, furniture mover, high school janitor and a dining room helper. After earning his law degree from the University of Wyoming, the young Buck worked briefly on the staff of then-Rep. Dick Cheney (R.-Wyo.), was an assistant U.S. attorney in Colorado and then went into private practice.
Upset at the rising crime rate in his home of Weld County, Buck decided he could do a better job of dealing with it, so he ran for district attorney in ’04. He was elected, re-elected four years later and, as he proudly recalls, “The crime rate was 50% down from before I was D.A.”
Standing between Buck and the U.S. Senate is liberal Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet, who was appointed to the vacancy created last year when Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar was named secretary of the Interior. One much-quoted headline at the time summed up the reaction in much of the Centennial State to the appointment: “Michael Who?”
Bennet, superintendent of schools for Denver, was the surprise appointee over such better-known Democrats as his old boss Mayor John Hickenlooper of Denver and former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. In fact, with campaign assistance from Bill Clinton, Romanoff waged a close-but-losing primary battle against appointed Sen. Bennet.
“And throughout that campaign, [Romanoff] said he was offered three different jobs from the White House if he would abandon the race,” said Buck. “And my opponent said he knew about this. That makes him a party to a crime.”
Along with that specific ethics complaint, Buck also tells voters that Bennet is “a rubber stamp for Barack Obama, pure and simple. So there’s a lot of reasons for replacing him with me: the healthcare bill, the stimulus package, cap and trade. On all those issues and many more, I’m his opposite number.”
Ken Buck has come a long way in life through hard work. If conservatives now apply a similar dedicated effort on his behalf this fall, he will make it to the U.S. Senate—and, it seems a good bet to say, they will know he is there.
(Buck for Colorado, P.O. Box 101465, Denver, Colo. 80250; Ken@BuckForColorado.com)
Illinois’ 2nd U.S. House District
Hayes vs. Jackson
Jesse Jackson, Jr., Democratic House member and heir to one of his party’s most illustrious names, finds himself under fire and in political trouble in his inner-city Chicago district. Suddenly, the political picture looks bright for a Republican named Isaac Hayes.
Wow! A fanciful scenario like that could have been conceived by novelist Harry Turtledove, who has written scores of books on alternative history ranging from what would have happened if the South won the Civil War to how World War II would have been had reptilian creatures from another galaxy tried to invade Earth in 1941.
But this is neither alterative history nor fantasy. It is what is happening right now in Illinois’ 2nd District, where Rep. Jackson (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 2.92%) finds himself under continuing fire for his role in the murky events involving impeached former Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the appointment to the Senate seat of Barack Obama. As it did for just about every Democrat in the Prairie State, the nationally watched sordid corruption trial of Blagojevich brought down the poll numbers of the seemingly invincible Jackson.
And the beneficiary of the congressman’s troubles is Isaac Hayes, a former mortgage banker now an Apostolic Church of God minister (“And no relation to the performer, as I tell just about everyone.”). Right in Barack Obama’s backyard, polls actually show the 36-year-old Hayes within striking distance of Jackson.
Prosecutors continue to probe whether Blagojevich dangled Obama’s Senate seat before would-be buyers. One of the witnesses at the former governor’s trial, Rajinder Bedi, testified that Jackson was sitting with him and another Democratic fund-raiser, Raghuveer Nayak, when they discussed collecting $1 million for Blagojevich’s campaign kitty in return for Jackson’s appointment to the Senate. Bedi went on to testify that he later met with Blagojevich’s brother and passed on the message that money for the governor’s campaign would be forthcoming if Jackson were appointed. (Jackson denies this and insists that he met with Bedi in the presence of others, and “then another gentleman showed up and started having another conversation practically in Hindi.”).
“Whatever the real story, this kind of business has got to stop,” says Hayes, who slams Jackson for trafficking with corrupt politicians while eyeing a bid for mayor of Chicago next year. The “reform Republican” has so far raised more than $60,000—impressive in a district where Republicans rarely raise anything—and just learned that Republican National Chairman Michael Steele will appear later this month in the 2nd District on his nationwide bus tour.
Under most other circumstances, the idea of a conservative Republican dislodging Jesse Jackson, Jr. would be dismissed as sheer fantasy. But in 2010, a lot of things that might normally be dismissed are not. And with his fellow conservatives taking him seriously, Isaac Hayes can pull off an upset that will be felt from the Windy City to the White House.
(Citizens for Isaac Hayes, P. O. Box 996, Richton Park, Ill. 60471; firstname.lastname@example.org; 708-443-3384)