Peter Fitzgerald

John Fund looks at one of the leaving senators and shows how one person can make an impact in the Senate.

In the end, Mr. Fitzgerald simply burned too many bridges to be able to run for a second term. In late 2002, Rep. Ray LaHood, an influential House Republican from Peoria, openly told reporters he was looking for an opponent to challenge Mr. Fitzgerald. Illinois Republican leaders made it clear that he would have trouble raising money for re-election and would have to spend several million of his personal fortune in any campaign. In April 2003, Mr. Fitzgerald decided he would exit the political stage.

Nonetheless, Illinois Republicans, still reeling from the aftereffects of Ryan-era corruption, will be lucky if they can coax Mr. Fitzgerald back into politics after his children are grown. “He was our greatest senator since Everett Dirksen,” says Chicago Sun-Times columnist Tom Roeser. “My fear is that he won’t find a business opportunity in Chicago and will move to some other state, where he would be a great treasure.”

The notion of prophets being viewed without honor in their native land is an ancient one, stretching back to the book of Mark in the Bible. Here’s hoping that tradition doesn’t hold true this time. While residents of Illinois celebrate the remarkable rise of Barack Obama they should also recall how much better their state is for the fact that Peter Fitzgerald didn’t give a damn if he was re-elected senator.

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Erick Erickson

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