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November 15, 2007

Hastert has not made a decision on retirement, but some Republicans believe he should--and soon

RFFM.org Commentary by Daniel T. Zanoza, national director

If there is one thing I should have learned in nearly fifty-four years of life, it is that one should never assume.  After writing technical papers, articles and columns for nearly 20 years, the primary lesson I should always abide by as a writer is to always be precise.

In an RFFM.org commentary titled, "Lauzen should be only pro-family candidate in GOP Primary to seek Hastert's soon to be vacated seat" and posted on March 19th, 2007, [http://rffm.typepad.com/republicans_for_fair_medi/2007/11/lauzen-should-b.html] I failed on both counts to operate with these two credos in mind.  Therefore, I need to make a correction to my commentary.

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, 65, has not announced his retirement from Congress.  Lulu Blacksmith, Hastert's press secretary, told me, "The Congressman has not made any decision on whether he will seek reelection.  He intends to make his decision later this year."  RFFM.org apologizes to Representative Hastert and our readers for the mistake. 

Also, it appears some may have come to the conclusion I was saying Hastert was considering an early retirement from his seat in the 14th U.S. Congressional District.  RFFM.org apologizes if anyone was misled by some ill-chosen words.  In the piece, I wrote Hastert's seat was "soon to be vacated."  In reality, by "soon" I meant Hastert would be leaving after his current term.  To those of us who are over 40 years of age, two years is not a long time.  But, again, I should have been precise in my language.

Concerning the status of Hastert's political future, the conventional wisdom "was" his current term would be his last.  So, like many others, my thought process flowed from this premise--as I appealed for pro-family candidates to be politically disciplined in their attempt to win in both the GOP primary and general election in the 14th Congressional District in 2008.  That is, to be precise, this scenario only applies if this is indeed Hastert's last term.

However, it is interesting how the meaning of a column can be obscured by some careless references.  But even though I now have accurate information about Hastert's indecision on retirement, some new questions come to mind.

As fate would have it, my mistake brings to mind some new questions regarding Republican politics in the 14th U.S. Congressional District.  If Hastert is planning not to seek another term, his decision needs to be made as soon as possible.  Hesitation on Hastert's part would foster queries about his intellectual honesty regarding who would replace him on the Republican primary ballot.  In order to run in the 2008 Republican primary, candidates wishing to be on the ballot will have to obtain signatures and officially file their candidacy way before the end of the 2007 calendar year.

According to what I was told today by the Illinois State Board of Elections, information regarding requirements concerning dates for filing are still up in the air.  This is due to a question over the possible change in the date for the next Illinois primary.  Currently held in March, the primary could possibly be moved up to February of 2008.  In the 2006 primary, held in March of the same year, candidates seeking U.S. Congressional seats were allowed to begin collecting signatures on September 1st of 2005.  The official deadline for filing for the March 2006 primary was December 12th of 2005.  Of course, if the 2008 primary is to be moved up one month, the entire process, including when signatures could be collected and the deadline date for filling would have to change.  According to State Board of Elections officials, all dates related to the 2008 Illinois primary are pending.

Certainly this puts more pressure upon Mr. Hastert to make a decision regarding his political future.  But there are cynics who say hesitation on Hastert's part is by design.  They believe the Illinois Republican Party, which is hardly a unified group these days, desires to micromanage just who will be on the GOP primary ballot.  These same cynics believe the Republican establishment has already chosen a replacement for Hastert--if he indeed decides to retire after his current term expires.  They believe the longer Hastert delays to announce a decision on his political future, the harder it will be for political challengers to mount a viable campaign against the establishment's choice.

There are even darker scenarios which can occur, according to some political insiders.  But, for the moment, let's not go there and let's give the former Speaker of the House the benefit of a doubt.  No matter what the case, Hastert needs to make a decision soon.  Otherwise those who already look at politics with a jaundice eye will become even more skeptical of Hastert's motives.


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