A story in today’s Roll Call (subscription required) reports that former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), who is expected to retire before the 2008 election, recently sent out a mailer soliciting funds for his campaign committee. The story goes on to explore the various reasons why “the Coach” may be loading up his coffers, and the circumstances under which he may pull the trigger on retirement
Hastert is clearly positioning himself to become a power broker in both his 14th District and throughout the state. In terms of his retirement, Roll Call notes that there are concerns a special election could lead to a free-for-all, and encourage a strong Democratic candidate (not mentioned by name, but presumably Aurora State Rep. Linda Chapa-LaVia) to enter a race that would otherwise require them to risk their current positions. I think they are right, and thus my original prediction that Hastert would force a special election was based on faulty and incomplete reasoning. In regards to the Republican nomination, they speculate that Hastert could follow the example of Illinois Democrats Bill Lipinski and Lane Evans, and run through the primary only to drop out and have his organization push for his chosen successor (reportedly Batavia Republican State Rep. Tim Schmitz).
As someone who was critical of Lipinski and Evans, I’d be very disappointed to see Hastert do the same, especially when there is an effective but far less objectionable alternative available. As Roll Call reminds us, "campaign finance laws allow Hastert to give unlimited soft-money donations on the state and local level in Illinois from his campaign committee." I think it's more likely that he will use his war chest to help Schmitz in a primary by shifting funds to local and state Republican office-holders who agree to endorse him.
Coincidently, such moves could also add some muscle to Hastert’s endorsement of Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney if the Illinois primary is moved up.
Also posted at the Grand Old Partisan of Illinois