Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and other House Republicans have waded into the GOP primary in Illinois’s 8th District, urging attorney Al Salvi to challenge Rep. Melissa Bean (D).
Salvi, a former state lawmaker, said yesterday that he had received about 15 phone calls from members of Congress across the country encouraging him to challenge the first-term Democrat but declined to offer a complete list. On Monday, he put the figure at 24.
|Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.).|
“I didn’t want to make a big deal about that anyway,” Salvi said. “They just called me to urge me to run and talk to me about the race. … They were kind enough to call. I’m not trying to get them involved.”
Spokesmen for Pence and Akin confirmed that their bosses had spoken with Salvi in the past few months but said those conversations did not amount to endorsements.
Pence spokesman Matt Lloyd indicated that Pence is trying to bolster his party’s right wing. “I think certainly, as RSC chairman, Congressman Pence wants to see more conservative members in the Congress. So things like the House Conservatives Fund are set up to help move toward that end.”
The fund was formerly called the Conservative Action Team PAC, or CAT PAC, and was run by Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), Lloyd said.
A Republican source close to the Republican Study Committee suggested the Salvi phone conversations with Pence, Akin and other members were organized by the RSC.
In recent months, the group of 100-plus conservatives — which Pence has called “the majority of the majority” — has confronted House GOP leaders over the budget and sought to play a more prominent role in shaping the Republican agenda.
Sheila Cole, the RSC’s executive director, did not return calls for comment.
Salvi’s entrance into the House race would likely make for a competitive primary. Former investment banker David McSweeney already has announced his candidacy.
McSweeney said yesterday that he expects to raise roughly $250,000 in the second quarter of the year. The Republican also has pledged to spend his personal fortune if need be.
McSweeney estimated that the whole race, from his announcement earlier this month through the general election, would cost $4 million to $4.5 million.
Salvi’s comments came in the wake of a trip he took this month to Washington, where he said he met officials from the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). Salvi showed NRCC officials a poll he had commissioned showing him winning a six-candidate GOP primary, an Illinois Republican source said.
A May 31 memo with the results of the survey, conducted May 25-26 by Public Opinion Strategies, states that “Salvi scores the highest percentage against Bean of the primary candidates tested,” including McSweeney.
But the memo does not provide figures for a potential match-up between Bean and Salvi, observing only that Salvi wins among Republicans by a 65-point margin, 77 percent to 12 percent.
Salvi stressed that in his two statewide races — in 1996, against Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and in 1998, for Illinois secretary of state — both of which he lost, he nevertheless won every precinct in the 8th District.
While Salvi insisted he is just considering a House bid, the memo is addressed to the “Al Salvi Campaign Team,” and Salvi said he spent $20,000 on the survey.
NRCC spokesman Ed Patru said, “I think what we’re interested in at this point is making sure that the strongest potential candidates are considering running.”
A senior Republican aide with close ties to Illinois politics said Salvi’s two losses would hamper his House prospects while adding that McSweeney is “a nice guy, but people just don’t seem that excited by him.”
McSweeney, in recent weeks, has sought to cobble together endorsements from local Republican officials. Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and state GOP Chairman Andy McKenna have stayed out of the primary.
Businesswoman Teresa Bartels “is one to watch,” the Republican aide said. Some Republicans in Illinois have voiced interest in Bartels because, they say, she is a more centrist Republican who can appeal to female voters in a district represented by a Democratic woman.
Bean spokesman Brian Herman promised the congresswoman will continue fundraising at a rapid clip. In the first quarter of the year, Bean raised more than $450,000, leaving her with nearly $360,000 in the bank. “I can’t say specifically what the number will be, but the aggressive pace has continued,” Herman said.