GOP hopeful in 11th district defends supporting Obama, Blago

  • Naperville businessman Bert Miller announces his candidacy for the 11th Congressional District at his Phoenix Closures Inc. manufacturing facility.

      Naperville businessman Bert Miller announces his candidacy for the 11th Congressional District at his Phoenix Closures Inc. manufacturing facility. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Chris Balkema

    Chris Balkema

Updated 11/15/2013 9:29 AM

Republican businessman Bert Miller's entrance into the primary race that will decide who takes on Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster is his first run for office, but he's not necessarily new to elections.

As owner of Naperville's Phoenix Closures, Miller took a turn last decade as chairman of the powerful Illinois Manufacturers Association and has given campaign donations to mostly Republicans, including Jim Oberweis, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and former U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo -- and most recently Kirk Dillard on Oct. 30, records show.


But his primary opponents have seized on two gifts to Democrats: $1,000 to then Democratic Senate candidate Barack Obama in 2003 and $1,000 in 2002 to Rod Blagojevich.

"Giving to those two figures does not help our country move in the right direction," said Chris Balkema, a fellow Republican candidate for the 11th Congressional District and Grundy County Board member.

Working together?

First, Miller says, he's given far more to Republicans, and he adds the recent federal government shutdown and all the vitriol it produced shows the parties need to work together better.

"I don't apologize for working with Democrats," Miller said.

More specifically, Miller says his role with the Illinois Manufacturers Association meant working with lawmakers of both parties. As a state senator, Obama voted for lawsuit and ethics reforms important to the association's members.

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"It's not the Illinois Republican Manufacturers Association," Miller said.

Plus, Miller says he knew Obama from his time as a board member of Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago, which was in Obama's state Senate district.

On Blagojevich, Miller says again the group had to work with everyone in Springfield, and no one knew in 2002 the jail-bound governor would "do the stupid things he did."

Miller, Balkema, state Rep. Darlene Senger of Naperville and Ian Bayne of Aurora are running in the 11th District, which includes Naperville, Aurora, Woodridge, Lisle, Darien, Bolingbrook, North Aurora, Plainfield and Joliet.


Senger on Thursday launched, a website calling for delay of the Affordable Care Act and for numbers about how many people could lose their health insurance plan at the end of the year. The numbers issue became further complicated Thursday when President Obama proposed allowing companies to extend some insurance plans into 2014, but whether that will happen and to what extent remains unclear.


The suburbs and Vallas:

Gov. Pat Quinn's new running mate, Paul Vallas, is in a different place politically than he was when he ran in the Democratic primary for governor in 2002. And the suburbs are a different place. And Quinn's ticket doesn't have a serious primary challenge this year. Still, history is fun, so here's some back story.

In 2002, Vallas did very well in the suburbs, taking all the collar counties from opponents Rod Blagojevich and Roland Burris. Vallas maxed out with 57.7 percent of the vote in Lake County and got 44 percent or more in Lake, Kane, DuPage, Will and McHenry. In Cook County, including Chicago, Vallas got 35.9 percent of the vote.

Blagojevich won nearly everything downstate, and the rest is history.

'Alive day:'

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth spoke on the U.S. House floor Tuesday about her "alive day."

Duckworth's Blackhawk helicopter was hit on Nov. 12, 2004, making the nine-year anniversary that came this week what she calls her "alive day."

She used the speech to praise the people who helped her. Earlier this year, Duckworth met for the first time since 2004 with one of the Army medics who helped her.

"I owe it to them to make their sacrifices and their heroic efforts that day worth it," she said.


A movie about the abortion opposition movement called "40" will premiere in Park Ridge next month.

The title is a reference to the 40 years since the Roe v. Wade decision. The movie features interviews of advocates and is narrated by actress Jennifer Cadena. The premiere will be at the Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge Wednesday, Dec. 11. More information can be found at

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