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updated: 3/27/2013 10:45 AM

Does McCain endorsement matter in Arlington Heights race?

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  • From left: Ron Drake, Thomas Hayes and Mark Hellner.

    From left: Ron Drake, Thomas Hayes and Mark Hellner.

  • John McCain

    John McCain


Arizona Sen. John McCain made local headlines on Monday by endorsing Ron Drake in the Arlington Heights mayoral race -- another reminder of how his political past could affect his future -- but his opponents and local political experts say it may not have a big influence on the outcome of the election.

Drake, who was mayor of Avondale, Ariz., from 2000 to 2006 before resigning to launch an unsuccessful bid for Congress, said he asked McCain for the endorsement.

Drake said he and McCain knew each other only through politics, mainly as the two worked to keep nearby Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Ariz., open during a round of base closures.

McCain also donated $2,500 to Drake's congressional campaign, according to federal election filings. The senator was among several other Arizona Republicans to support Drake in his race against an incumbent in a heavily Democratic district that year.

The last time the two met up was when they ran into each other at an NCAA tournament game in 2007, Drake said.

"We're trying to demonstrate that based on my resume and Senator McCain's endorsement, I am the most qualified candidate in the election," Drake said. "I believe I am just based on the things I've done and accomplished, and it was great to have that highlighted and validated by someone of Sen. McCain's magnitude."

The endorsement released on Monday called Drake "an extremely effective and energetic leader."

While McCain is a big name in national politics, local experts said his words may not carry much weight in a municipal election.

"I don't think it means much of anything," said Paul Green, professor and director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University. "(McCain) couldn't find Arlington Heights with a map. Is he going to bring industry to Arlington Heights? Is he going to help with the growth of downtown? Has he ever heard of Arlene Mulder?"

Green said the endorsement probably won't hurt Drake at the polls, but it also may not make a measurable difference in the results, either.

The one place he said it may help is giving name recognition to a candidate who was not involved with suburban politics before this campaign.

"It gives (Drake) some publicity he would not have gotten, but it also reminds voters that he hasn't been back in Illinois very long," Green said.

While Drake is welcoming support from one former Arizona ally this week, he is distancing himself from another.

During Drake's run for Congress in 2006 he received a $2,000 contribution from the Committee to Re-Elect Trent Franks, according to the FEC.

Franks, a Republican congressman from Arizona, has been very outspoken about a variety of issues, including his opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and President Barack Obama's gun control proposals. In 2011 Franks called same-sex marriage "a threat to the nation's survival" and said he would support impeaching Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder over the decision to no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Drake has distanced himself from Franks' views.

"I ran for Congress in 2006; the Tea Party was created in 2009," Drake said, adding that he does not align himself with the Tea Party.

"I have no idea where the allegations are coming from, but it's someone outside of our camp and they don't have their facts straight."

Drake said he and Franks also knew each other through politics but were not friends and have not kept in touch.

"Whatever he did since I left Arizona politics, that's his business," Drake said.

While Drake deals with his political past, good and bad, his fellow candidates said they don't think the endorsement is a game-changer.

"This is Illinois, not Arizona. This is 2013, not 10 or 15 years ago. I think a lot of people probably don't like remote figures trying to influence local politics," said mayoral candidate Mark Hellner, who joked that he hopes to be endorsed by Paul McCartney or Bono any day now.

Trustee Tom Hayes has been endorsed by Mulder, all five trustee candidates and other local leaders.

"I think residents are more concerned with the endorsements of people who know the issues in Arlington Heights," Hayes said. "Those people know the qualifications of what is needed here and they know my qualifications."

Hayes, a West Point graduate, also was taking the McCain endorsement lightly -- joking that as a Navy man, the Arizona senator couldn't be expected to endorse an Army man.

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