RESULT: Debbie Halvorson (D) 58% – Marty Ozinga (R) 35%
According to Roll Call, two weeks after the Chicago Tribune published an investigation into his questionable land deals in Nicaragua, Representative Jerry Weller (R) announced his intention to retire. The exurban and rural district leans slightly Republican in presidential elections, but it could be competitive now that there’s an open seat. The Democrats got great news when state Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson announced her decision to run — she quickly cleared the Democratic field and has been raising money at a steady clip. New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann won a fairly impressive Republican primary victory on Feb. 5, but he never seemed completely committed to the campaign and announced two and a half weeks later that he was dropping out of the race.
In April 2008, Republicans selected wealthy building contractor Martin Ozinga as their nominee. [Roll Call, accessed 5/15/08; Pantagraph, 4/30/08] Although he’s proved to be an effective fundraiser, Ozinga has been tainted by problems with paying property taxes and a farmland deal now in court. [Roll Call, accessed 5/21/08; National Journal’s House Race Hotline, 4/10/08]
While immigration has not yet emerged as a defining issue in the general election, in 2007 the Pantagraph reported, “The three candidates vying for the Republican nomination in the Feb. 5 election to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller are talking tough when it comes to illegal immigration. The trio agrees some kind of wall or barrier should be built along the U.S.-Mexico border to stem the tide of illegal crossings, and none favors granting amnesty to illegal immigrants who are already in the country. The three all said immigration could play a key role in the 11th Congressional District race.” [Chicago Tribune, 3/29/07; The Pantagraph, 12/30/07]
The Halvorson Position:
COMPREHENSIVE REFORMER. Halvorson does not mention immigration on her campaign website, but as state Senate Majority Leader, Halvorson was praised by immigrant advocates for her strong support for comprehensive immigration reform. In addition, Halvorson declared her support for “earned citizenship” for undocumented workers at a Kankabee County Farm Bureau candidates forum in August 2008. In 2007, as the illinois General Assembly considered legislation to authorize a special driver’s permit for undocumented residents, Halvorson said Democrats discussing the proposal viewed the bill as a positive for public safety. [Kankakee Daily Journal, 8/23/08; Chicago Tribune, 3/29/07]
The Ozinga Position:
ENFORCEMENT PLUS VAGUE REFORM. On his campaign website, Ozinga says: “America’s borders must be secured at once. Legal immigration has always been a source of great strength for this country, but illegal immigration flaunts the rule of law, compromises our national security and costs Illinois taxpayers over $3 billion each year.” The site goes on to state that “Marty will take the lead in Washington to secure the border; oppose amnesty and taxpayer benefits for illegal immigrants; work with state and local agencies to enforce the law; establish a workable employer verification system; and streamline the legal immigration process to ensure the American economy has the workforce it needs to remain globally competitive.” It is clear that the candidate is trumpeting his border enforcement credentials, but this last line in his platform suggests some acknowledgment of the need for reforms that go beyond enforcement. [Marty Ozinga for Congress, accessed 5/15/08]