May 18, 2005

Former Delay aide to run for Hyde seat in Illinois

State Sen. Peter Roskam, who has mixed conservatism and diplomacy to become one of the Legislature's key voices on the right, announced Monday that he will run for the congressional seat being vacated by Henry Hyde.

His candidacy could produce a struggle over which direction the Republican Party should take in the Chicago suburbs. Roskam might very well face a challenge from a candidate with more moderate views on abortion, gun control and other social issues.

Roskam is shaping his candidacy as an extension of Hyde's 32 years in office.

DuPage County GOP Chairman Kirk Dillard endorsed Roskam by calling him "a younger version of Henry Hyde."

Roskam praised Hyde's ability to stick to his principles without being harsh and said he wants to adopt the same approach.

"I think we've got to move away from ascribing bad-faith motives to political opponents," Roskam said. "The people who disagree with you aren't your enemy. They're your opponents."

After serving as a congressional aide to Hyde and Rep. Tom Delay of Texas, now the embattled House majority leader, Roskam was elected to the Illinois House in 1993 and served until 1999. In 2000, he was appointed to the state Senate.

As a legislator, Roskam, 44, often takes the lead in explaining the conservative viewpoint during floor debates -- almost always in calm, reasoned tones. He has spoken out against the state moratorium on executions, government support of stem cell research and legislation to protect gays from discrimination.

He has also been a frequent critic of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, including questioning the Democrat's plan to mortgage the state's Chicago headquarters and demanding public information about a major pharmaceutical contract.

Roskam could face serious challenges for Hyde's seat in Chicago's western suburbs. Recent election results suggest more suburban voters -- particularly women and Democrats moving into the area -- are looking for more moderate candidates.

Sen. Carole Pankau, a moderate Republican from Roselle, said she is considering a run for the nomination. She met last week with Hyde, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and other members of the state's congressional delegation and said she got a good response.

Both Pankau and Roskam oppose abortion, but Pankau makes an exception in cases of rape and incest. Roskam says he feels it is appropriate only when the mother's life is in danger.

Roskam opposes most gun-control measures. Pankau says she is open to restrictions that don't interfere with law-abiding sportsmen.

"I think I will make a very strong opponent against him," Pankau said.

Democrat Christine Cegelis, who got 44 percent of the vote against Hyde in 2004, is also likely to run again. [Attorney Peter O'Malley of Wheaton has also expresssed intrest.]

Roskam is an attorney and lives in Wheaton. He is married, with four children. He ran for Congress once before, losing in the primary to Judy Biggert in 1998, who went on to win the seat.

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