Illinois - 5th District
Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.)
Born: Dec. 10, 1956, Chicago, Ill.
Education: Northwestern U., B.A. 1979; Pepperdine U., J.D. 1983.
Family: Wife, Patricia.
Religion: Eastern Orthodox.
Political Career: Ill. House, 1993-97.
Capitol Office: 501 Cannon Bldg. 20515; 225-5209.
By Congressional Quarterly
Blagojevich reclaimed for the Democrats a district that for 36 years was the province of Dan Rostenkowski, the former powerhouse chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
Rosty, as he was known, was indicted on 17 counts, including the misuse of personal and congressional funds, extortion of gifts and cash, and obstruction of justice.
His ethical problems paved the way for one of 1994's most shocking upsets: the election of Republican Michael Patrick Flanagan.
But Flanagan turned out to be a one-term wonder. He was a loyal soldier of the House Republican revolution, voting, for example, 100 percent of the time for the planks in the House GOP's "Contract With America." All the while, he was squarely in the sights of the Democrats, who had targeted him for defeat.
Their nominee, state Rep. Blagojevich, was well-connected to the Chicago Democratic organization, which, though not as powerful as it was under the late Mayor Richard Daley, still makes its presence felt on occasion.
It did in this race, thanks to Blagojevich's father-in-law, city Alderman Richard Mell, one of the last strong ward leaders in Chicago; and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, son of the legendary mayor and one of Mell's close friends.
With the backing of the party organization, Blagojevich defeated two opponents in the primary: fellow state Rep. Nancy Kaszak, who ran as a political outsider and had the backing of EMILY's List, a fundraising group for women Democratic candidates; and Ray Romero, a lawyer and former business executive.
Blagojevich then turned his attention to Flanagan. Following the national playbook of House Democratic challengers, Blagojevich portrayed himself as a moderate and his opponent as an extremist.
He cited Republican-sponsored cuts in the projected growth of Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly, and Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled.
Flanagan, who had moved away from the Republican Party line in the second session of the 104th Congress, contended that he served as Chicago's link to the House GOP majority. He pointed to the federal funding Congress authorized during the 104th Congress for erosion projects along Lake Michigan.
Flanagan concentrated on constituent service and held many town meetings. He contended that his conservative voting record was in line with the views of the 5th District's residents, who supported President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Vice President George Bush in 1988.
Blagojevich, a former Golden Gloves boxer who served as an assistant state attorney before winning election to the state legislature, made crime a center-piece of his legislative career and his congressional campaign.
In Springfield, he pushed legislation revoking gun permits for people convicted of stalking or domestic violence and supported efforts to require violent criminals to spend more of their sentences behind bars.
As a congressman, he said, he will work on legislation to provide assistance to cities, such as Chicago, that are fighting crime and gang violence. He has called for prohibiting people under age 21 from possessing handguns, making it a felony offense to threaten someone who refuses to join a gang, and requiring people convicted of defacing public property with graffiti to perform community service.
In Washington, Blagojevich ran into some early trouble. During freshman orientation, he headed over to what he thought was the Longworth House Office Building. It turned out to be the Library of Congress.
Then he failed in his effort to land on the Appropriations or the Judiciary committees, winding up instead with seats on the Government Reform and Oversight and the National Security committees.