CHAMPAIGN – As a young boy on the South Side of Chicago, John Cox used to dress up like the president at the time, John F. Kennedy.
But in his run for a primary win in the Senate, Cox has left JFK far behind, and wants to be known as the conservative Republican in the field.
It's a time for rebirth of the Republican Party in Illinois," his campaign statement notes. "As a true conservative, I'm going to run for office in the tradition of Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and the spirit of George W. Bush."
Cox, 47, is particularly incensed about cronyism, in both parties. He dropped in on The News-Gazette on Tuesday, and noted approvingly that former George Ryan aide Scott Fawell was going to prison.
"Six and a half years is not enough," Cox said. "Fawell shamed the Republican Party and the people of Illinois."
He cites the Democrats for Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's efforts to double the size of O'Hare International Airport.
A loyal South Sider despite his move to the Gold Coast, Cox thinks building an airport at Peotone, about 50 miles south of the Loop, is a better use of federal and state tax money than expanding O'Hare.
Cox said the O'Hare project would cost many times more than locating in relatively inexpensive farmland. Peotone would also create far more jobs than O'Hare, he said.
Another transportation idea he favors is also a favorite of many liberals: high-speed trains. He said building these would be cost-efficient, ease congestion and reduce pollutions.
Cox, a graduate of the University of Illinois' then-Circle campus and Kent School of Law, worked his way through law school as an accountant. He has three daughters. He said he is in touch with conservative Illinois as an abortion opponent who wants tax cuts, but not deficit spending.
He said the government should eliminate nepotism and political connections.
Cox has been on the boards of the USO, Black Ensemble Theater and Fireworks For Kids Foundation. He was a school board president in Glenview, as well as a member of the Glenview Zoning Board of Appeals..
His accounting experience has made him read deeply into the federal tax code, Cox said.
He even made his mark in the rapacious snack food industry, as owner of Jay's Potato Chips, which he noted he rescued from a large corporation that was running it into the ground.
Oberweiss says he will benefit from earlier start
CHAMPAIGN – James Oberweis said Tuesday he'd spent $1 million on his education – losing the primary race for senator in 2002.
"That was a lot more expensive than going to the University of Illinois," said Oberweis, a 1968 graduate.
Oberweis, who lives in suburban Aurora not far from his 75-year-old family dairy, has not yet announced his candidacy to replace retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald and keep his seat Republican.
But his consultant, Kelly O'Brien, said Oberweis has already garnered so much support that she'll be filing papers with the Federal Election Commission any day now.
One important supporter Oberweis won't have this time around is Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. He had it in 2002, and lost the primary to a man who eventually lost to Sen. Dick Durbin.
Oberweis said Hastert has told him he'll stay out of this race.
Another challenge for Oberweis is separating himself from the herd. The Republican candidates run the gamut from millionaire white male all the way to millionaire white male.
Few have any serious political experience.
Jack Ryan, 43, is a former investment banker. Andrew McKenna, 46, runs Schwarz Paper Co. Oberweis, 57, heads Oberweis Dairy, Oberweis Asset Management and the Oberweis Funds. John Cox, 47, is a lawyer who once owned a potato chip company.
The Illinois Democrats running for Senate include state Comptroller Dan Hynes and state Sen. Barack Obama.
Oberweis thinks he can win this time around because he's won a lot of early attention from fellow Republicans. He didn't enter the March 2002 primary until the November before, but this time he's got about nine months to develop momentum.
He believes his experience in building up a dairy business that had been suffering, as well as starting a one-man investment company that became huge, shows that he has the leadership experience to reform wasteful spending in Washington.
Like the president, whom he idolizes, he considers himself a compassionate conservative. His Oberweis Foundation disburses money to improve education and help the homeless.
Like Barry Goldwater, his first political idol, and Ronald Reagan, his second, he has a hard-nosed approach to foreign policy.
Oberweis fully supports the war in Iraq, and wishes it had started earlier.
"I don't see how anybody could expect this to be waged without some setbacks," he said.
He would push for legislation many farmers would support, including reducing trade barriers, and would like to see vouchers for private schools.
Oberweis said he has no ambitions beyond the Senate. "Being a good senator is about as important as it gets," he said.
All three of his children are UI alumni.
You can reach Paul Wood at (217) 351-5203 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.