Against Long Odds: Citizens Who Challenge Congressional Incumbents

By James L. Merriner; Thomas P. Senter | Go to book overview
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9
ILLINOIS
DICK SIMPSON (D) AND MICHAEL P. FLANAGAN (R) v. REPRESENTATIVE DAN ROSTENKOWSKI (D)

Political insiders and media pundits presumed that Representative Daniel D. Rostenkowski of Chicago was unbeatable--even after he was indicted for stealing public money in 1994. This presumption underscored the political establishment's belief that incumbents not only are entrenched but in some cases are invincible, even if under indictment. Journalists habitually described Rostenkowski as "the powerful chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee" and "the last of a breed"--a hulking, straight-talking, high-living, and indestructable survivor of the old Mayor Richard J. Daley machine of urban ethnic politics.

But two men had the nerve to take him on. Dick Simpson, a college professor, challenged "Rosty" in the Democratic primaries of 1992 and 1994. Mike Flanagan, a young law school graduate with exactly one suit to his name, ran against Rostenkowski as a Republican in 1994.

Both challengers heard, even from many wellwishers, that Rosty was invulnerable. He had entered Congress under Mayor Daley in 1959 at age thirty-one and was re-elected seventeen times, sometimes without opposition. He regularly brought home federal pork such as the massive Deep Tunnel flood control project, single-handedly scooping it out like some political Paul Bunyan.

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