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BATAVIA – Batavia businessman Jim Purcell announced Wednesday that he is pulling out of the primary race for the Republican nomination to the 14th Congressional District.
But instead of endorsing one of the remaining four candidates, Purcell issued a dis-endorsement of opponent Ethan Hastert. Purcell said that if the son of the former House speaker Dennis Hastert wins the GOP nomination in the Feb. 2, 2010 primary, Republicans can kiss the seat goodbye to Foster in the general election.
“Ethan is a very nice young man, but the reality is that his family is a liability in the general election,” Purcell said in a prepared statement.
“Dennis Hastert is the very kind of Republican that voters resoundingly rejected in 2006. I don’t believe Ethan will be able to get past that, regardless of how far ‘right’ he runs in the primary. Voters are tired of actors. They want real leadership,” Purcell said. “It is extremely important that Republicans take back the 14th Congressional District from Bill Foster and Nancy Pelosi. But the only way this will happen is if Republicans nominate a conservative candidate not plugged into the ‘establishment’ that is responsible for losing our majority in Congress.”
Hastert offered a more conciliatory tone, saying Purcell’s belief in limited government, less spending and lower taxes are values they share.
“I hope those who have supported Jim will take a look at my candidacy, and I hope that I will be able to earn their support,” Hastert said in a statement. “As a mainstream conservative (who is) pro-life, pro-family and pro-Second Amendment rights, I think many of those who supported Jim will recognize that I will stand up to the Democrats’ borrow-tax-and-spend agenda with a market-based approach to get America back to work.”
Candidate State Senator Randall Hultgren R-Wheaton, said Purcell’s exit will not change his campaign strategy.
“Jim can say what he wants to say,” Hultgren said. “And I think I’m the best candidate to beat Bill Foster – no one else gives us as good a shot. I’m the best to beat Foster.”
Candidate Jeff Dank-lefsen of Geneva said he was surprised by Purcell’s pull-out – but agreed with his criticism of Hastert.
“I agree with Jim that Republicans lost their power because the leadership strayed from Republican principles,” Danklefsen said. “And Denny Hastert was part of that leadership. I think Ethan is a fine young man as well and Ethan should not be held to his father’s voting record. But he is running on his father’s name, so those two will have to go hand-in-hand.”
Danklefsen said the Hastert name on a ballot would turn a lot of voters off.
“Conservatives remember what Dennis Hastert did to our district and in 2006, when Republicans were bludgeoned and Denny quit,” Danklefsen said. “It’s because of him we have Bill Foster.”
Though the elder Hastert won re-election in 2006, he resigned before his term was up. Batavia Democrat Foster eventually won the seat.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said he did not agree with Purcell’s sideswipe of Hastert.
“That is unfortunate that he made those statements,” Brady said. “I don’t agree. And that’s the kind of behavior that cost us the seat in the last cycle. Any of these guys would be a plus. Bill Foster is a Nancy Pelosi liberal and does not fit the district.”
Matthew Streb, a political scientist at Northern Illinois University, said Foster won because the division between dairy magnate Jim Oberweis and State Senator Chris Lauzen, R-Aurora, never healed after Oberweis won the GOP primary, Streb said.
“The biggest concern for Republicans is they do not want a divisive primary,” Streb said. “If they have one, they better heal those wounds pretty quickly. Republicans did not line up behind one candidate is why this happened. This is a Republican district. Republicans can do well, but if they do not unite, they can’t win.”
Candidate Mark Vargas of Elgin did not return a message seeking comment.