Hamos-Seals Democratic Battle Too Close to Call

Posted January 27, 2010 at 5:47pm

With five days to go until Illinois primary voters head to the polls, the 10th district Democratic contest remains a tossup as it’s still unclear whether state Rep. Julie Hamos will be able to overcome marketing consultant Dan Seals’ name identification advantage.

After running two successive but unsuccessful campaigns against Rep. Mark Kirk in 2006 and 2008, Seals has built up what some have called an insurmountable lead in the polls — even though Hamos is well-respected in local Democratic circles, and national Republicans confess they would slightly prefer a matchup against Seals.

Public polling has been scarce since Seals released his own survey in August, which showed him more than 50 points ahead of Hamos. What’s more, Seals has a track record of handily defeating primary opponents. He defeated former Clinton White House aide Jay Footlik in the 2008 primary, winning about 81 percent of the vote.

But as Hamos’ supporters are quick to point out, the well-funded state Representative has run a much stronger campaign than Footlik. A top aide from one of Hamos’ biggest supporters, EMILY’s List, argued that she has run a better campaign than Seals.

“Julie Hamos has put together an incredibly strong campaign,— EMILY’s List Political Director Jonathan Parker said. “She is the perfect candidate to go on and win this seat for Democrats in the general elections, and we’ll see on Tuesday what the voters say.—

But even with some of the best fundraising in the country (Hamos raised just more than $1 million for the race through Jan. 13, while Seals brought in $500,000), Hamos was only able to go up on broadcast television this week because of the cost-prohibitive Chicago media market.

Nonetheless, primaries — and turnout in early February frigid temperatures — are unpredictable.

John Michael Gonzalez, a lobbyist and Democratic strategist who’s worked in Illinois, said he still thinks his favored candidate, Seals, has the upper hand.

“He had the advantages going in,— Gonzalez said. “She was the kind of candidate to overcome his advantages, she could have done it. At the end, I don’t think she did.—

And in the general election, at least one national Republican admitted that the GOP would rather face Seals than Hamos. Republicans see Hamos’ weak points as her voting record in the state Capitol, especially when voters this cycle have already demonstrated their preference for atypical and outsider candidates.

But the source argued that Seals has already lost the seat twice to Kirk in two favorable cycles for Democrats, and Hamos’ powerhouse fundraising ability is a big asset.

“With her on the ticket, it’s going to be a more expensive race,— the well-placed Republican said.