As the race in the 6th Congressional District enters its final weeks, there’s one thing U.S. Rep Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, and his opponent, Sean Casten, agree on: Grassroots efforts will be the key to success.
“My experience is this. There’s campaign ads and all that sort of stuff, and those are significant, and I’m not dismissing that. But where you win a campaign is on the ground. You win a campaign on the ground,” Roskam told a group of volunteers Oct. 6 at his Wheaton campaign office.
The following day, Casten met in Naperville with a group of volunteers who were preparing to knock on doors for the Democratic challenger.
About 125 volunteers worked at Casten’s Barrington office during the weekend while another 80 gathered at his Downers Grove headquarters to make telephone calls and prepare mailers, Casten said. Volunteers have knocked on 19,000 doors within one week and made 100,000 phone calls, he said.
“I have been really impressed with the amount of volunteers we have,” Casten’s political director, Samantha Warren, said during a phone interview. “People are sort of finding us. People are excited.”
She also said that some volunteers are lifelong Republicans who no longer are satisfied with Roskam.
“It’s an affirmation that the majority of the voters in the district share my values,” Casten said during a phone interview.
The race between the veteran congressman and political newcomer is exceptionally close as it heads into the home stretch.
A poll commissioned by Casten’s campaign found the Downers Grove resident ahead of Roskam by 5 percentage points.
Conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group and released Oct. 7, the poll shows Casten leading Roskam 49 to 44 percent with 7 percent undecided.
The poll was taken Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 of 400 likely general election voters in the 6th Congressional District. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
The poll also showed Casten leading among female voters polled, 54 percent to 39 percent. Roskam led among men polled by 7 points – 50 percent to 43 percent. However, Casten outperformed with voters ages 18 to 39, garnering
58 percent to Roskam’s 25 percent.
Roskam’s camp did not put significant stock in the latest polling results.
“No question the race is close,” Roskam’s communications director, Veronica Vera, said in an email. “Peter Roskam continues to work hard every day to advance solutions – from bringing home $1 billion in tax relief to the 6th District, to successfully fighting off Trump administration cuts to the funding that protects our clean drinking water.”
Vera added Roskam has garnered several key endorsements as a result of “his bipartisanship and proven track record of getting things done.”
Roskam said he’s no stranger to a close race. In 2006, he narrowly defeated U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth in a race to fill the seat of U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde, who retired after 16 terms. Roskam won the race by less than 3 percentage points. Duckworth was elected to Congress in 2012 and the U.S. Senate in 2016.
“So we’ve been here before,” Roskam said. “I have a lot of confidence in where we are right now. The polls are very close. They show us consistently ahead, but close. This is a campaign where you press on, press on, press on, press on.”
The nationally watched race is extremely important to both parties during a midterm election in which Democrats are trying to wrest control of both the U.S. House and Senate from the GOP. Democrats need to win at least
23 GOP-held seats to take control of the House.
As a result, considerable money has been spent in the 6th District race. The House Majority PAC is spending
$1.9 million against Roskam to fund TV ads, according to the group’s website.
However, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a GOP super PAC with ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan, opened a field office in the 6th District, one of several located in competitive House districts throughout the country. The PAC also has helped fund Roskam’s campaign.
For Casten, the race is not only about defeating Roskam but also standing up to the Republican Party and President Donald Trump.
“Republicans vote with Trump
94 percent of the time,” Casten said. “At some point, stand up for values. The Republican leadership hasn’t called out Trump or [Justice] Brett Kavanaugh.”
Trump’s presidency has generated significant “fear and anger” among voters who see the midterm election as an opportunity to voice their displeasure, he said.
He also criticized his opponent for failing to communicate with constituents.
“Roskam hasn’t had a town hall meeting in his district in 10 years,” said Casten, who also chastised his opponent for refusing to participate in a debate in the district.
Roskam, meanwhile, has taken issue with Casten’s campaign tactics.
“My opponent has embraced the politics of ridicule, the politics of name calling, the politics of putting people down,” he said. “That’s not what we need. What we don’t need now is more rhetorical gasoline. We don’t need more name calling. There’s a lot of vitriol in the public square right now, and we as a country need to step back from that and not fuel that.”