We met Dan Schmitt at a grill in the Jefferson Park neighborhood. The 63 year-old resident of the Mayfair neighborhood has a simple message: he wants to be your man in Congress.
A small businessman his entire life, Schmitt is fed up with Washington. If he takes office in January he’ll work to undue the legacy of President Barack Obama.
“I believe that Obama is going to be the death knell of America,” Schmitt says. “They are going to queer the deal that is the USA.”
“I’m afraid this President, who came from nothing, is after the US,” Schmitt adds.
Schmitt traces his political awakening to the Reagan administration. Operating a coffee truck, Schmitt came into contact with many downtown workers, becoming known as Coffee Dan.
On his web page, Schmitt says he decided to run against Congressman Frank Annunzio when he realized Annunzio was opposing President Ronald Reagan.
Annunzio “talked conservative when he was back here in his district,” the page says, “but voted like a pinko socialist when he was in Washington.”
Schmitt lost to Chuck Theusch, a 1st District Republican Congressional candidate, in the 1984 primary according to his web site. In 1987 Schmitt ran against former Ald. Gerald McLaughlin and former Ald. Patrick Levar.
It was the first election following the Council Wars but Schmitt was crushed. “Three heavyweight Democrats were in the race,” his web site says. “There were no votes left for me.”
Schmitt moved on, working with Public Access TV to produce a program that interviewed Republicans. But he found something he enjoyed more, producing a program on motorcycle racing called Team Chicago Challenge.
“I have been producing that show for the last 25 years,” the web site notes.
Schmitt talks passionately about both politics and motorcycles.
Schmitt describes himself as a Tea Party activist. His forceful rhetoric in person is matched on his web site. It says:
- ObamaCare is evil. Just who in the government will be responsible for your health?
- President Obama is the dumbest president we have ever had when it come (sic) to the economy or he is the smartest and he just wants to destroy this county.
- The current Congressman in the 5th District voted to steal 500 billion dollars from Medicare.
- Our very liberty is under attack from President Obama and Congressman Quigley. The out-of-control spending is going to destroy America as we know it.
- The Federal Budget needs to be cut by 10% across the board. The out-of-control spending is going to destroy America as we know it.
- The Congressman in the 5th Congressional District is way out there in left field. He is out of touch. He is another empty suit taking up space in Congress. I at least know how to build things, to repair things. We need to send a mechanic to Washington to fix the broken ship of state.
- President Obama’s Social Security tax break is evil. Short-fall (sic) in the system are coming up right now. Income taxes should be cut to 28% for the top level.
Elsewhere on his website, Schmitt says
- Marriage is between one man and one woman
- He would return to the DADT policy in the military
- He would restore funding to abstinence-centered sex ed programs
- He would oppose the use of tax dollars to cover abortions
Schmitt says the new 5th Congressional District offers the chance to end Mike Quigley’s tenure in Congress. Schmitt pulls reports from the spring primary, noting that the new district spreads west from the lake front to DuPage County.
He points to vote totals from the primary showing him close to Quigley.
DuPage will not support Quigley, Schmitt predicts. If DuPage goes for Schmitt big, Schmitt is hoping to split suburban Cook precincts. Then he would battle for blue collar votes away from the lake front wards that Quigley calls home.
Schmitt, who says his campaign war chest is less than $1,000, hopes big donors will soon step forward to help him reach his dream.
DuPage voters don’t want to be represented in Congress by a lake front liberal Schmitt says.
Why? Quigley, Schmitt says, is defending the indefensible.
“Quigley is apologizing to Muslim students for discrimination,” Schmitt notes.
Schmitt points to the Fast and Furious scandal. “Why were guns going into Mexico? What was the end game?” Quigley he says should be asking tough questions of Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department and the White House about the program.
Schmitt dismisses Quigley’s term on the Cook County Board, a period when Quigley became known as a reformer. Quigley, Schmitt says, avoided facing a battle with the machine when scandals first arose in the Department of Homeland Security.
“I don’t think” Quigley “represents the hard-working people of the 5th Congressional District,” Schmitt says.
Schmitt, in person and on line talks about returning to an America that was a manufacturing giant. It is a country, he notes that still produces much of the world’s needs.
He talks about the Schwinn factory, Motorola and Zenith. Florsheim Shoe, US Steel and Tootsie Toy too. Each of which once had large operations in Chicago. “I was there when Richard J (Daley) pushed through the head tax on all employees in Chicago,” he records on his website.
“It was Mayor Daley and the Democratic Machine that destroyed the future of hundreds of thousands of families in Chicago.”
At the diner Schmitt talks about energy policy as the solution to the country’s economic problems. “I’m a big believer in American nuclear power,” he says. Schmitt dismisses concerns about nuclear safety saying that the Chernobyl plant was a Russian design. He won’t discuss Fukushima and Three Mile Island.
He seems surprised to learn that Chernobyl radiation was detected in Scandinavia and continues to affect peoples health there. Nuclear energy will lower our energy bills he says.
If it involves energy, Schmitt seems to favor developing it. There is enough gas in the world for us to exploit he says, dismissing market prices as too high. Fracking and more drilling will provide all the gas we need.
He supports the Keystone XL pipeline. He supported the Tenaska ‘clean coal’ plant in Taylorville. The plant received a $417 million federal tax credit and pushed for the state to lock local utilities into purchasing power from the plant, a push that was rejected by the legislature.
“I don’t think there is any limit to the amount of oil” in the world he says. Schmitt says he knows this because he is a motorcycle enthusiast. The earth, he notes, is always producing more oil.
And coal? Develop that too. In fact, override federalism to force states to loosen local environmental laws and accept high sulfur coal such as that produced in Illinois.
Schmitt talks about manufacturing, about how large firms grew communities that included smaller businesses. A factory would have tool and die manufacturing for example, often in the neighborhood businesses surrounding the plant he remembers.
The small factories created an economic infrastructure that created jobs for people who were not interested in college.
He says an economic policy that encouraged businesses to return to the US and Chicago could recreate the environment for that economy, providing jobs to Americans.
On his website, Schmitt says “when you drive around the south and west sides of Chicago, you will see young men that may never have a job, young men who spend their entire day trying to game the system.”
As hopeful as that sounds, Schmitt dresses this plan in anti-immigrant bluster.
- We have a flood of immigration from Central America. Yes, they want to work and improve their lives, but… these immigrants feel they have a right to come to the USA, that they have a claim to a good portion of this country.
- Some of these immigrants want to take back parts of the USA.
- An average American is competing with people who will work for less, driving down the value of labor.
- Those that are here illegally, must return to their own countries.
Finally, I ask Schmitt about his plan to require the federal government to cut its budget by 10 percent. Ten percent cuts will not balance the budget I note. Schmitt says it is a start.
The defense department? Should we cut the defense budget? What about my disabled friend who receives $903 a month? Should he be cut by $90?
Yes, says Schmitt.
Everything has to be cut. Everything has to be on the table.