The record turnout of young voters predicted for the presidential election may not have much impact on races farther down the ballot, including the hotly contested race in Illinois’ 11th Congressional District.
Mokena Republican Marty Ozinga is squaring of against Democrat Debbie Halvorson of Crete for the seat that opened when Rep. Jerry Weller (R) announced his retirement in September 2007. Weller joined 29 other GOP congressman who decided to retire this year, leading to vigorous contests between Democrats with an eye on control of the House and Republicans determined to hold on to as many seats as possible.
National campaign committees for both parties have poured money into TV commercials in the 11th District race.
Despite the high-profile fight between Ozinga, who owns a concrete company and Halvorson, who has been an Illinois state senator for a decade, younger voters don’t seem to be paying attention. A number of young residents couldn’t even name the candidates.
“I don’t know a thing about it,” said Joliet resident Eric Lindholm, 28, of the race.
Mary Pickens, 35, a teacher in Joliet, said she hadn’t heard much about the race, despite the heavy dose of television advertising.
“If you don’t watch TV, you don’t hear about it,” she said.
That doesn’t mean young voters aren’t concerned about issues in the district. Lindholm said job creation was the most important issue to him, a concern echoed by others.
Pickens pointed to the downturn in the housing market that has slowed the construction industry, shrinking jobs. She said there are housing developments in Joliet that have stalled and remain only partially occupied.
The unemployment in rate in Joliet has been more than 8 percent since May., and a number of younger residents said they felt under-employed and that their educations were wasted.
Andy Sere, an Ozinga spokesman said the Republican’s experience in business means he can bring jobs to the area.
“He is the only one in this race that has ever created a job in his life,” Sere said.
Brian Doory, a spokesman for the Halvorson campaign, said that the Democrat’s plan is to bring “green collar” jobs to the area, capitalizing on wind energy creation.
“Nobody wants to work at McDonald’s when they get out of school,” Doory said.
Green collar jobs might sound good to Ashley Camacho, 23, who said the environment is the most important issue to her. She would like to see expansion of Joliet’s recycling programs. Still, jobs were high among her priorities, too.
“When people start losing their job” that’s when they start to care about politics, Camacho said.
Although the district has typically voted Republican in the past, a Survey USA poll conducted Oct. 20-21 shows Halvorson leading with 50 percent to Ozinga’s 37 percent, while Green Party candidate Jason Wallace held 9 percent.