State

Hastert says he's undecided about vacating seat before January

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert said Tuesday he still hasn’t decided whether he’ll vacate his seat before his term ends in January 2009 but scoffed at speculation he might quit soon to force a special election before the Feb. 5 primary.

“I don’t see a primary before the primary,” he told The Associated Press.

The Illinois lawmaker announced last month that he would not run again for the seat he’s held since 1986. His decision came about eight months after he lost his post as longest-serving Speaker of the House, with eight years at the helm.

As Democrats and Republicans prepare for the February primary, some have suggested Hastert might resign soon to force an even earlier primary and special election for his seat.

Hastert’s district stretches from his Plano home south of Chicago westward almost to the Mississippi River.

National Republic Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain would not say whether the organization has a preference on a special election.

“No matter which way you slice it, Illinois’ 14th district is a Republican stronghold and we’re confident it’ll stay that way,” Spain said.

Republican candidate Jim Oberweis says he’s heard speculation but, “I hope Denny Hastert continues to serve as long as he wishes.”

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