The real election night shocker in Illinois' north suburban Tenth Congressional District—which stretches from Wilmette to the state line of Wisconsin-- was the choice of Dan Seals over Julie Hamos as the Democrat candidate. The victory for Seals—a two time loser who managed to lose his most recent 2008 bid in a race historically favorable for Democrats--smelled more of crossover mischief than sound party sentiment. But it wasn't.
When Hamos, wildly popular in her native Evanston and a resident of the 9th Congressional District, rented a house just North of where she lived in the nearby 10th District and filed her candidacy, her sheer presence alone began giving fits to local GOP operatives. As an experienced politician, Hamos understands election basics: that it is best to have a residence actually located in the district you seek to represent, and it doesn't hurt to have some voters in your new district who have already voted for you.
It's hard to think that the choice of Seals over Hamos isn't motivated by some sort of death wish for November by the Democrats. You expect to see this type of odd result when legions of one party—faced with a boring primary with few actual choices—attempt to win one for the Home Team months before the actual election takes place by entering the primary of the opposite party and voting for the weaker candidate to oppose their candidate at the ballot box. But this wasn't an election where people had much if any interest in crossing-over. Both parties offered their voters real choices in important races.
Hamos' loss cannot be easily understood. Perhaps Hamos underestimated the vast amount of time opponent Seals had available to spend on his campaign. Possibly North Suburban Dems feared a Martha Cokely effect. It could be that Democrats wrongly calculated that Beth Coulsen would be the Republicans' choice for Congress, thus making Seals an easier-to-distinguish opponent.
With Dan Seals as the Democrat candidate for Congress, Republicans breathed a real sigh of relief. Republicans feared Hamos. Experienced at the State level, battle-hardened, and effective Hamos had local GOPer's on edge and ready to empty their wallets.
There may be many cracks in Hamos' veneer which would have appeared when opposition research began. But from the outside looking in, the choice of Seals, a hale-fellow-well-met kind of guy without community ties and partial to frat-boy political pranks and resume padding, over Hamos, a serious, principled and experienced government official is an odd one. From a cursory glance, Hamos' only weakness was her far left-wing politics. This year that alone may have been enough. Perhaps there really is something after all to those jokes that after a year of Barack Obama, George Bush is starting to look pretty darn good.
Pictured above is a campaign piece on health care from Seals most recent losing Congressional run in November, 2008, when he positioned himself as a Barack Obama clone, featuring Progressive folk wisdom coupled with the change necessarily borne of inexperience, along with Kennedy-style good teeth. You can click on the picture to see it larger.