Zinga calls in the pros to put her campaign in high gear


by Norm Winick

With the state Republican Party in shambles, no G.O.P. candidate for the open U.S. Senate seat, and a huge misshapen district that was redrawn — with the help of her own party — to be favorable to the Democrats, it would appear that Andrea Zinga’s race against 11-term congressional incumbent Lane Evans would be the longest of long shots. She doesn’t see it that way.

The center of her effort is Galesburg. Zinga’s campaign has set up her headquarters in a suite of offices in the Bondi Building. She has brought on board two experienced campaign professionals — Campaign Manager Charlie Johnston who recently worked for Andy McKenna’s Senate primary in Illinois and previously had worked on Al Salvi’s Senate campaign.and Christopher Foltz, Deputy Communications Director, who had worked as an intern with Elizabeth Dole’s presidential run and Haley Barbour’s Gubernatorial campaign in Mississippi.

Zinga herself is changing her tact from criticizing Evans’ health, "We made our point; we stated facts. Now it seems Mr. Evans is the one bringing it up," to pointing out his perceived ineffectiveness.

"That’s going to be my main focus. I will be concentrating on pointing out the lack of results as seen by the deteriorating economy in the 17th district. People need to know how he votes, that he’s only passed one piece of legislation in 22 years."

Zinga says that there are several issues which will be the foundation of her campaign. Blaming Evans for the loss of high-wage manufacturing jobs in the area is number one. She says she will also talk about national security, education and health care.

"We need to start getting a return on our tax dollars. We need to start getting our money’s worth from Washington. I’m a common-sense Republican, a fiscal conservative. We see Mr. Evans react when jobs go away and we need someone who talks to all sides. I have no problems with the unions; they have a place. But I can talk to the businesspeople who create the jobs."

The former local and CNN anchorman says that despite the stereotype, she never just sat at a desk. "I was always out there talking to people, covering stories. It’s different in small markets. I know how to talk to people, how to work with people."

Zinga isn’t in lock-step with the top of her ticket, either. "I am very concerned about the huge deficits and the inattention to infrastructure. We need to address the lock expansion so our farmers can get their grain to the worldwide markets." She supports NAFTA, despite the many who blame it for the loss of jobs in this area. "We’re in a global economy. We can’t close our borders; we have to be prepared to compete in the world."

She says that infrastructure improvements combined with incentives for companies to stay and eliminating some of the incentives for them to leave are an answer to the local job flight. "This district is doing worse than others. We can’t get by with casino boats and tea rooms."

Zinga had campaigned with former U.S. Senate candidate Jack Ryan only to see him withdraw from the ticket amid a sex scandal and charges of lying to state GOP leaders. "It affects my campaign, too. We need to know who is at the top of the ticket. I never questioned Jack Ryan about what was in his divorce records so he never lied to me. I don’t presume to know who the Republicans will put in but I am prepared to campaign with whoever it is."

She won’t say whether a Congresswoman Andrea Zinga would have supported the president in going to war in Iraq. "I don’t know if I would have voted to give him the authority to go to war. I wasn’t there. While we are there, we have an obligation to support our fighting men and women."

"I don’t know the details of every bill that comes before Congress but I’ve been out here for 20 years. I’ve talked to people for 20 years. People are getting my message that we need to be getting our money’s worth. Mr. Evans is fully vested. He’ll get a pension greater than most people’s salary in this district. We need to thank him for his service and look toward the future. It’s the future I’m interested in. I don’t want to ignore the good Mr. Evans has done, I think I can do better."

While Andrea Zinga remained diplomatic, her seasoned campaign manager Charlie Johnston took off the gloves. He did credit Lane Evans for his constituent services and Johnston promised that Zinga would maintain a Galesburg office and it may very well be her main district office.

In a follow-up email, he reiterated some of the charges they will me making against Lane Evans: "Now of course, this district lags behind, as it has ever since Mr. Evans went to Congress — in both boom and bust times, whether a Democrat was in the White House or a Republican, whether Congress was controlled by Democrats or Republicans. The point is, Evans has been utterly ineffective regardless of the other circumstances. What are the fundamental reasons? Talk to company managers and owners and they will tell you Lane Evans will show up for a press conference when trouble raises its head, but it’s difficult to get a callback after that. They all say they have to reach out to Ray LaHood, Denny Hastert or others to get any help. Further, Evans has been utterly inattentive to advocating for the infrastructure needs of this district in order to attract new jobs. He’s simply a job-killer because he likes to hang around Washington living the life of a Congressman but not get overly troubled by advocating for the district."

"I have long wondered when the press in this district is going to get wise to Evans’ gambit of announcing he has saved the day with a new appropriation or government loan only to let word get out it isn’t going to get funded after he has safely survived election. The city of Canton just spent $1.2 million of its own money to tear down the old IH plant (that, of course, was the first in the long litany of failed assurances by Evans that he would get the job done). In that case, Evans got a $500,000 appropriation to help — but the city has never seen a dime of it because it didn’t get funded. Evans got the press he wanted out of it and now the good folks of Canton have to just suck it up. Remember a few years ago when Evans had union members offering testimonials about how ‘Lane Evans saved my job’ by promising appropriations of government loans to save Northwestern Steel and Wire? It was shortly after election — once Evans saved his own job — that the union members got the news that, well, the money won’t be coming after all."

"Does every district lose some jobs? Pretty much. But there’s a joke on the hill among the Illinois delegation that if any company is in trouble in Evans’ district, you can kiss it goodbye. Evans’ district covers half the Illinois frontage on the Mississippi River but in 22 years he has not gotten approval for a single new bridge. This guy can’t even sell a bridge to Congress. For crying out loud, anyone can sell a bridge to Congress."

"Evans loves to boast of his 99 percent voting record. That’s only half the job; the other half is advocating on behalf of the district and there he barely shows up on the radar screen. At some point, it is going to dawn on the press in this district that there is a reason Democrats have never put Evans in a position of key leadership — because they can’t afford the inattention and ineffectiveness that he brings to bear."

"And frankly, if the people of this district are ever going to pull out of the doldrums, they are going to have to elect a Congressperson who will show some leadership and go to bat for them. One more person must lose his job before economic recovery can begin in earnest in this district — Lane Evans."