Bernard Schoenburg: Morris stresses importance of family in politics

Bernard Schoenburg

There’s no constitutional requirement that a person be married or have children to go to Congress, but that’s not stopping Peorian JOHN MORRIS from trying to make his marital status a plus in his primary race for the U.S. House.

“I’m not sure I want to send someone to Washington, D.C., who doesn’t know what it’s like to have a family,” Morris said at a Statehouse news conference this week.

Morris made the comments in response to questioning at a Statehouse news conference about immigration. Mention of his family situation obviously is part of the Morris game plan in a race in which experience seems a key selling point for each of the three Republicans who seeking their party’s nomination from the 18th Congressional District now served by U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria.

Morris also stresses that he had governmental experience via his eight years on the Peoria City Council.

State Rep. AARON SCHOCK, 26, who is single, is clearly Morris’ target on the family issue.

“I’ll leave that up to the voters to decide,” Schock said of the Morris comment on family.

Schock’s campaign is focused his experience on the Peoria School Board, including a stint as president, and his work in the Illinois House, where he’s the youngest member.

The other Republican primary candidate, Peoria businessman JIM McCONOUGHEY, has no government background, so he plays up his business experience. McConoughey is CEO of The Heartland Partnership – an umbrella business group that includes the Peoria Chamber of Commerce. On the campaign trail, he also mentions his graying hair and life experience – at 46, he’s the oldest of the three.

Asked about the Morris remark Wednesday, as he attended a Sangamon County GOP holiday breakfast, McConoughey noted that he and his wife have a couple of teenagers.

“When I had those children and I started changing diapers, I realized the world was bigger than me, and I had a lot of responsibilities to those kids,” McConoughey said. “I think I draw a lot of strength from the idea that I’m raising a family, trying to figure out where my kids are going to work, and how to put them through school.”

Morris, 39, who is married and the father of a couple of pre-teens, said at his Springfield appearance that, in the GOP race, “there’s a couple of us who actually know what it’s like to have a family, and that changes you.

“It changes your perspective. It gives you better judgment,” he said. “There’s only one person who has both political elected experience and knows what it’s like to drop kids off at school and worry about their future and has a perspective as a family person.”

Asked if no single person should be elected to Congress, Morris said, “If you’ve got two good candidates and one of them is informed by having a family and being through real life, and one of them doesn’t have that at all, I’d go with the one with the family.”

In campaigning, Morris frequently repeats that he’s “conservative.” Of the three Republicans, he’s the only one who says that, once the border with Mexico is secure, all illegal immigrants should be deported when discovered.

Schock says he also supports securing the borders, including “building the fence.” Schock opposes President GEORGE BUSH’s plan to allow citizenship for people in the U.S. illegally, but he stopped short of advocating mass deportation.

“I think there ought to be a penalty for them,” Schock said, adding, “the process for them to become a citizen will be negotiated.”

McConoughey notes that he’s on a Midwestern advisory body to the Federal Reserve Board.

In that role, he said, “I am privileged to be able to hear an awful lot of information about how the economy is served by immigrants – legal and illegal immigrants. The deportation scheme, I think, is going to be incredibly expensive … not just from a dollars and cents standpoint, but what it could cost the economy. … So we have to come up with a solution that allows us to register these folks.

“I don’t have an answer for this that is very direct. I have an answer that says if you put 12 million people on a bus, we would have a very difficult time recovering from that in an economic sense. In just activities that they do in the country, we’d have to find replacement workers for that group.”

On abortion, Morris says he is “100 percent pro-life,” including in cases of rape or incest. However, he says he is open to the procedure if the life of the mother is threatened.

“I think in the case of live versus life, that’s a private choice, because it is a question of life,” according to Morris. “I think the family should decide that one.”

McConoughey says on his Web site that he “will deliver a 100 percent Pro-Life voting record in Congress.” His campaign manager, MATT BISBEE, said McConoughey also would allow for an exception when the life of the mother is at risk.

Schock would allow abortion in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

McConoughey says he has worked with many public officials in his business role. From the early 1980s through 1990, he was with a hotel company, Columbus, Ohio-based Cardinal Lodging Group, for which he served as director of franchise operations and director of development as the chain grew from seven properties to 211. Included are many under the Knight’s Inn brand.

“You have to talk to lots of different folks throughout the community that you’re trying to build a hotel in to figure out if you can get infrastructure to the locations,” he said.

Schock started buying and selling properties at age 18. He and a partner started a garage-finishing business when Shock was out of college. And he worked with Junction Ventures, a business development firm in Peoria, to help put on a contest for Bradley University students who submitted competing business plans to start their own firm. The winning students now have an iPod repair firm.

Schock also has worked for Petersen Company in Peoria, developing hotels. And he and a partner are building a house to be put up for sale.

Schock out-conservatives Morris in one way that could hit Morris in the pocketbook. Schock thinks state and federal funding for public broadcasting should be ended, while Morris is on leave from his job as vice president for development at WTVP-TV, a PBS station.

“At the time that public television was created, I think there was a need,” said Schock, because at the time there was little competition for what were then only three network channels. But now, satellite and cable companies provide dozens or more than 100 stations to many households, he said.

“I think public television is at a point now where it should be able to stand on its own, like all the other programming, and rely on private dollars and advertising and private donors to support its mission,” Schock said.

Morris, asked earlier for his views on public broadcasting, said, “Don’t we deserve a conservative on the inside of public television? Now seriously, I am a conservative, and the money that I raise is private dollars. … Voluntary giving is a conservative ideal.”

He also said that he is “not against public funding for everything under the sun except defense.”

Former U.S. Rep. BOB MICHEL, R-Peoria, was on the national PBS board for many years, Morris said.

“Bob told me when I first came to the station, he said, ‘You know, without some kind of external support ... in addition to local private donors, most of the rural areas would not have any public TV access at all.’”

Morris also said he was not involved in WTVP’s loan restructuring that has caused that station recent financial problems.

McConoughey said there should be partial government funding for public TV. He said it started as educational and as “the emergency response system for a lot of folks to get information.” However, he said educational programming now is a “very competitive market,” and he agreed that people generally don’t need to turn to public channels for emergency information.


More than 1,000 people entered that Governor for a Day contest that Illinois Republicans, and a man who sells cranes and lives in DuPage County was the winner.

MIKE MESSUCK, who the state GOP says attended Bradley University in Peoria and played hockey, emailed in his name and won the prize.

The date for his haircut and massage, tour of Chicago landmarks and attendance at a Chicago Blackhawks hockey game has yet to be set.

As you may recall, the GOP announced the contest after Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH ducked out of a special session of the legislature he called and in order to attend a Chicago Blackhawks hockey game as the House was voting down a Blagojevich-backed bill to help mass transit in Chicago. The ribbing hasn’t quite stopped since that Nov. 28 trip, and the GOP will surely be letting us know how Messuck enjoys his special day.

Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at (217) 788-1540 or