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updated: 2/15/2012 11:42 AM

Second-chance candidates get their shot on March 20

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  • Tammy Duckworth

    Tammy Duckworth

  • Raja Krishnamoorthi

    Raja Krishnamoorthi

  • Jim Oberweis

    Jim Oberweis

  • Bill Foster

    Bill Foster

  • David McSweeney

    David McSweeney


This year, 8th District congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth is avoiding using words like "fight" and "war" in her campaign.

Her opponent in the March 20 Democratic primary, Raja Krishnamoorthi, is concentrating on better communicating his priorities to voters.

Why? Both say they learned such lessons years ago, during earlier unsuccessful bids for office.

The run-up to the primary election is full of candidates like Krishnamoorthi and Duckworth who have a previous campaign or two under their belts.

Here's what some say they learned about themselves -- and voters -- and how it plays into this election.

Tammy Duckworth

Current bid: Democratic congressional candidate, 8th District

Previous bid: Democratic congressional candidate for the 6th District, 2006

What she learned: Duckworth, of Hoffman Estates, described the 2006 congressional race against Republican Peter Roskam, of Wheaton, as "so, so bitter."

She says she learned then how "partisan" things can be. The Iraq War veteran and former U.S. Army helicopter pilot says she's purposely avoiding words like "fight" and "war" in her campaign rhetoric this time around in the 8th District, which includes parts of Cook, DuPage and Kane counties.

"That's a very conscious attempt to sort of ratchet things down while still getting my point across," she said.

Duckworth -- who left her post as assistant secretary of veterans affairs in the Obama administration over the summer -- feels she's benefiting from the previous campaign experience.

"I have these last six years of really extensive experience working with people at all different levels. And learning to shut up and listen and get out of my own way."

Raja Krishnamoorthi

Current bid: Democratic congressional candidate, 8th District

Previous bid: Democratic candidate for state comptroller in the 2010 primary

What he learned: Krishnamoorthi, of Hoffman Estates, said he learned on the campaign trail in 2010 that people were "very receptive" to hearing details about specific plans and policy proposals that would be his priorities if elected.

Though he narrowly lost his bid for comptroller, Krishnamoorthi said he carried over that lesson to his congressional bid today.

Transitioning from a statewide bid to a more compact congressional district, Krishnamoorthi believes congressional voters "really want to get to know their representative up close and personal in a different way. It's more intense. And I think that's good. They want to know that you're going to be there for them."

Bill Foster

Current bid: Democratic congressional candidate, 6th District

Previous bid: Winning campaign in the 14th Congressional District in 2008, losing re-election bid in 2010.

What he learned: Foster, now battling against Jim Hickey of Orland Park and Juan Thomas of Aurora in the Democratic primary, says he has a different perspective about this race.

"I'm in a somewhat different position in that I have served in Congress, and I have pretty specific ideas on how to make a difference," he said.

"I've seen up close and personal just how dysfunctional Washington is," said Foster, who replaced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert in Congress, winning both a special election to finish Hastert's term and the general election in November.

This race will be a little different for Foster, of Naperville.

"The district I'm running in has a majority of people I didn't represent before, so I'm doing a lot of introducing myself," said Foster, formerly of Batavia. The 6th District is spread across parts of Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane and McHenry counties.

David McSweeney

Current bid: Republican candidate for Illinois House, 52nd District

Previous bid: Republican congressional candidate, 8th District, 2006

What he learned: McSweeney, of Barrington Hills, waged a high-profile and eventually unsuccessful effort to unseat Democratic Congresswoman Melissa Bean in 2006, but has now turned his eyes to Springfield. He faces a heated, three-way primary against incumbent state Rep. Kent Gaffney of Lake Barrington and Danielle Rowe of Island Lake. The 52nd District includes parts of Barrington, Island Lake, Oakwood Hills, North Barrington, Wauconda, Lake In The Hills, Fox River Grove, Algonquin, Barrington Hills, South Barrington, Cary and Crystal Lake.

"The most important thing, I think, is to build a strong, grass-roots organization," McSweeney said. "I knocked on over 5,000 doors when I ran for Congress."

So what will he try differently?

"We didn't spend enough time on the get-out-the-vote operation," he said.

"Frankly, we took that for granted. And that's a mistake I'm not going to make twice."

Jim Oberweis

Current bid: Republican candidate for Illinois Senate, 25th District

Previous bids: Candidate for U.S. Senate in 2002 and 2004, candidate for Illinois governor in 2006, candidate for Congress from the 14th District, in 2008.

What he learned: Oberweis, a Sugar Grove Republican, has been a visible figure in Illinois politics for 10 years but is looking for a first general election win.

First, he's facing a primary election battle against Dave Richmond of Batavia and Richard Slocum of Sugar Grove.

The 25th District includes parts of Geneva, St. Charles, Sugar Grove, Elburn, Bartlett, South Elgin, North Aurora, Aurora, Wayne, West Chicago, Yorkville and Montgomery.

Oberweis said the three candidates agree on many of the issues, and said his experience suggests voters want a positive campaign.

"I believe it's important that we focus on issues, and not personalities," he said.

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