Re-elect Dan Lipinski Congressman

Pelosi Loses Local Backing; New High-Speed Rail Bump; Karl Rove Visits

Crain's Chicago Business

November 9, 2010

By Greg Hinz

It looks like outgoing U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has some problems with Illinois Democrats as she seeks to become minority leader of the new, GOP-dominated House.

Ms. Pelosi's closest ally, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Evanston, says she's sticking by the speaker and predicts she'll pull out a leadership post in the end, despite big Democratic losses in last week's election.

But two others from opposite ideological corners —Southwest Side conservative Dan Lipinski and North Side liberal Mike Quigley — make it clear they'd like someone else to assume the task of rebuilding the party in the House.

"I would prefer she's not the candidate," Mr. Lipinski said. "As the New York Times put it, she's not the right face for us right now."

Mr. Quigley said Ms. Pelosi "has been criticized unfairly" but, like it or not, she's "toxic" politically.

"Is that fair? No," Mr. Quigley said. "But it's political reality. I had hoped she would have stepped aside."

Ms. Schakowsky responds that the speaker "led the most productive Congress in history" and has talents that are just as useful now as when Democrats were the majority.

"She knows politics ain't beanbag, and she knows how to fight back," Ms. Schakowsky said. "That's what we need now.

At the moment, no one is running against Ms. Pelosi. But, as the commentators say, the situation is fluid.

Meanwhile, there's one more bump for that Chicago-based high-speed rail network in the wake of last week's election, but it's perhaps not a fatal blow.

Iowa Gov.-elect Terry Branstad says he's not now willing to go as far as newly elected Republicans in Wisconsin and Ohio and call a halt to developing faster rail in his state. Iowa recently was awarded $230 million in federal funds for a Chicago-Iowa City line that eventually could travel at speeds of 110 mph.

But he's "very concerned" about the cost to taxpayers and whether the line would get enough use. "I want to carefully review and analyze the circumstances,” Mr. Branstad said.

The real question: How hard will the Obama White House fight to save one of its signature stimulus projects? So far, officials are saying that any money the Midwest gives up cannot be used for local road projects but instead will go to other regions of the country that remain committed to rail.

And finally, the man Democrats love to hate, GOP strategist Karl Rove, is in town for a Robert W. Baird & Co. investors conference at the Four Seasons tonight.

I'm sure it will be a lovely event, given the election outcome.

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