Election foe: Fewer standing behind Schock

Kevin Beese
Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) with singer Ariana Grande.

Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) with singer Ariana Grande.

Political minds are wondering if continuous headlines about U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock’s spending habits will make him vulnerable in 2016.

The three-term congressman has been linked to using taxpayer money to fly to a Bears game and remodeling his office to resemble the PBS show “Downton Abbey,” which could cause some voter backlash. But Schock’s 18th Congressional District is so Republican that it would probably take a criminal misstep by the public official to get him bounced from office, according to an individual who twice ran against him.

“If anything criminal would emerge, then someone could actually unseat him,” said Darrel Miller, who ran against Schock in 2012 and 2014. “Someone the other day made the comparison of him and Jesse Jackson Jr. (the former Second District congressman from south Chicago).

“You are not going to touch them under normal circumstances. Probably the only thing that would make an impact going forward is if something criminal emerged.”

Miller said that does not mean people in the district are thrilled with Schock and his spending. The former candidate said at the grassroots level there is discontent with the negative headlines surrounding the congressman.

“It is surprising and disappointing,” Miller said of the Schock saga. “A lot of people identified with him, a local guy making good. A lot of people are genuinely disappointed. How this transfers to his political future is anybody’s guess.”

A representative of Schock’s Peoria office said that all media inquiries were being handled by Matt Chambers in the congressman’s Washington D.C. office. Only a recording is available when Schock’s D.C office is contacted. Chambers did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

Miller said the constant headlines seem to be putting a dent in Schock’s support.

“The spending stuff, it goes without saying, is amazing,” Miller said. “There seems to be something new every day. It seems that fewer people are ready to stand up behind him.”

Calls and emails to Republican Party representatives in Peoria, Sangamon, and McLean counties, as well as state party leadership, all went unanswered as of press time.

Miller challenged Schock in the Republican primary in 2012, but a petition challenge left him 17 votes short of staying on the ballot.

“I got to deal with the Republican Party’s premiere election lawyer,” Miller laughed. “This is a guy who destroys petitions for a living. It was a David and Goliath situation.

“He had millions of dollars in his campaign fund. I just wanted to make a statement about gridlock in Washington. I didn’t have a prayer of winning.”

In 2014, Miller challenged Schock again, this time as a Democrat, and got about the same vote support that Schock’s last two election foes received. He said he was surprised, thinking he would push the needle at least a little off a Republican landslide.

“I thought I would move the vote a little bit,” Miller said, “but I got almost the same as the last two Democrats. That is just the way the world is here, I guess.”

He said his party flip in 2014 wasn’t anything more than trying to get his views before the public.

“In 2012, I was barely a Republican. In 2014, I was barely a Democrat,” Miller said.

Miller said more than one person has come up to him in recent days to talk politics. “They are like, ‘Dang, I am glad I voted for you instead of Aaron Schock,’” Miller said. “People have been really surprised by all this. Nobody had that image of him this fall.”

Miller said that as of right now, he has no plans to challenge Schock in 2016, but he has not ruled it out either.

“After what has happened, it would be a pity if someone did not run to give people a choice,” Miller said. “There needs to be a choice for people.”