Callahan says she's not seeking political career

Adriana Colindres

When Democrat Colleen Callahan decided to seek the congressional seat being vacated by Ray LaHood, the political newcomer realized she would be viewed as the underdog against two-term Republican state lawmaker Aaron Schock.

“It’s an uphill battle. We knew that the day we started,” she said.

But underdogs sometimes pull off surprising victories, Callahan said, invoking a football reference.

“I know who was supposed to win the Super Bowl this year. And I know who did win the Super Bowl this year,” she said.

That game pitted the heavily favored and undefeated New England Patriots against the New York Giants, who won.

Callahan, a longtime farm broadcaster in the Peoria area, was a late entrant to the 18th Congressional District race. In March, Democratic officials from the counties in the district tapped Callahan to run after their previous choice, Dick Versace, quit the campaign.

Callahan said she has no desire to become a professional politician, but hopes “to use the political process to become a public servant.”

The economy is the top issue among voters, she said.

“What people are concerned about no matter where I am in the district is the uncertainty of the economy as it impacts them,” she said, adding they also talk about the war in Iraq, health care and energy.

Callahan said had she been in Congress when the recent federal bailout/rescue of the financial industry came up for a vote, she would have supported the second version of the plan but not the first. The second version was better, she said, because it called for an oversight committee and increased to $250,000 the cap on how much money the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. insures in bank accounts.

“Distasteful as it is, I think we at least took the time to try and do it as best we could.”

As for the war in Iraq, Callahan believes the United States needs to withdraw its troops, a move she says would free up money the federal government could use for other purposes. She has no specific deadline in mind, but said some of those troops should be redirected to Afghanistan.

She’d like to see the country adopt a mandatory public service program, in which military service would be one option.

Throughout the campaign, Callahan has attempted to call Schock’s judgment into question.

She believes Schock was reckless last fall when he suggested the sale of nuclear arms to Taiwan could convince China to go along with U.S. policy toward Iran. He later backed off the remarks.

A recent Callahan television ad attacked Schock for his Taiwan comments, calling him “so extreme it’s scary.” Similar to the so-called “Daisy” ad that President Lyndon Johnson’s campaign ran against Barry Goldwater in the 1960s, Callahan’s ad showed a girl picking petals off a flower just before a nuclear bomb explosion.

The ad was intended to be “retro,” Callahan said. “It is pointing out the risk involved in using that kind of judgment.”

Callahan also raised questions after The Associated Press reported Schock had notarized documents with false dates about eight years ago.

“There are clear differences,” she said, referring to herself and Schock. “And I do think it gets down to character, integrity and judgment.”

Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292


Colleen Callahan, 57, Kickapoo

FAMILY: Married, one daughter

OCCUPATION: Owns Colleen Callahan Communications; former farm broadcaster.

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications, University of Illinois.


Other ACTIVITIES: Past president, National Association of Farm Broadcasters; served on executive boards of Peoria YWCA, Nature Conservancy, Great Rivers Regional Board, Youth for a Cause, Peoria Children’s Home, University of Illinois Alumni Association and Morton Community Bank.


ECONOMY: “The need for a $700 billion bailout by the federal government clearly indicates that the market failed, and at the end of the day, it needs the help of the government to stay simply operational. The real problem here is that the government did not get involved sooner.

“Right now, the fundamental problem of the U.S. economy is our large debt. ... We need to end the wasteful spending of money on the Iraq war, we need to end the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 percent, and eliminate corporate loopholes.”

ENERGY: “A new U.S. renewable energy future ... can create new jobs, strengthen the economy, improve national security and enhance our ability to address climate-change challenges through reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

“I am open to considering the idea of offshore drilling ... (but) there are certain requirements, such as environmental standards, that must be met.”

HEALTH CARE: “The system must be reformed, and more people must be added into it. I am in agreement with many aspects of (Barack) Obama’s plan for increasing access to health care.”

IRAQ WAR/NATIONAL DEFENSE: “We need a smart approach that focuses on public diplomacy, development of broken societies and international cooperation. It’s time to bring our troops home and let Iraq develop its own form of democracy. ... The exact drawdown must be made in accordance with an evaluation of the conditions and circumstances on the ground.

“I feel strongly about curtailing excessive government surveillance of our personal thoughts and effects, including our letters, phone calls and e-mails.”