Federal budget woes spur 31-year-old Elburn resident to run for Congress
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURNâ€”The name â€œHastertâ€ is familiar to most local residents, as the last name of the Congressman who served District 14 for two decades.
It is also the surname of an Elburn resident running for the same Congressional seat in 2010, his son, Ethan.
Ethan Hastert, 31, moved to the village from an apartment in the West Loop. Ethan and his wife, Heidi, said they needed more space after the birth of their son, Jack, and liked Blackberry Creek.
â€œIt wasn’t that Ethan thought one day, ‘Oh, let’s move to Elburn so that I can run for Congress in District 14,’â€ Heidi said.
Ethan said they chose Elburn because it is close to the Metra station and to his parents, who live in Plano.
â€œI wanted to be near my folks and near the train,â€ said Ethan, who commutes to his job as an attorney at Mayer Brown in Chicago.
His other major recent decisionâ€”to run for Congress as a Republicanâ€”also relates to family, not just his but those throughout the country, whose futures are threatened by financial decisions federal lawmakers have made this year, he said.
Hastert said he didn’t wake up one morning and decide to run for Congress, but that it was a gradual process stimulated by his concern at the beginning of the year by the level of spending coming out of Washington.
â€œBasically, in January, you saw the national budget go from a little under a trillion dollars to more than three trillion,â€ Hastert said. â€œI used to think it was going to fall on me and my generation to pay off the national debt. But now, I look at my 2-1/2-year-old son, and I realize it’s going to be him and his generation paying these debts off.â€
Hastert is concerned that rising national debt, which could eventually exceed $20 trillion, will result in inflation that could financially cripple families, he said.
â€œFor you, me, my wife, my son, every single one of us, what that equates to is, every individual in the United States shares $37,000 worth of debt,â€ Hastert said. â€œThe only way to pay that off is to either grow the economy, and make $20.5 trillion look paltry, or you inflate your way out of it, so that means paying $150 for a loaf of bread.â€
Hastert said the nation’s budget should not be excessive when families and businesses do not have that luxury.
â€œAs a nation, we’re currently borrowing 50 cents on every dollar we spend,â€ he said. â€œIf you or I ran our household or business like that â€¦ we wouldn’t be around very long. That’s very simple.â€
For example, at his home, he would love to build a deck but said it wouldn’t be prudent spending.
â€œI would like to have a lot of things here. But right now, that is not my top priority,â€ he said. â€œI have other bills I have to pay. I don’t get everything I want. We have to start treating our national budget that way.â€
Aside from his concern about the federal debt and inflation, another reason Hastert is running is to ensure a strong Republican Party in the future that includes young lawmakers.
â€œPeople are ready for the next generation of Republican leadership to start showing themselves,â€ Hastert said.
Some might say Hastert’s inexperience could work against him in his pursuit of such an ambitious goalâ€”a U.S. Congressional seat. Hastert said he considered seeking a state lawmaker position but said he likes the people already in place.
â€œWe have a fine complement of state legislatorsâ€”two Republicans (Kay Hatcher and Chris Lauzen) who are doing a good job fighting the same problems in Springfield that we are having on the national level,â€ Hastert said. â€œSo I have no interest in running there.â€
For most of Hastert’s life, his father was a Congressman, which spurred his interest in national issues.
â€œIt’s not to say that I don’t follow state or local policies or politics; it’s just a matter of my personal interest,â€ Hastert said.
He was 9 years old when his father became a Congressman in the late 1980s. But he was just 2 when his dad first ran for the Illinois Legislature, where he served as a state representative for six years.
â€œAnd my son is 2 now, as I get ready to make a run,â€ Hastert said.
As an attorney commuting to Chicago, Hastert is away from home for 12 or more hours each day. That work schedule does not give him much time to hunt, fish or cook, which are among his favorite hobbies. Lately, he devotes his spare time to his family and to getting out and meeting voters. He said he might take a leave of absence from work to devote himself to his campaign.
Hastert started reaching out to the public even before his June 5 announcement to the Elburn Herald that he intended to run. He attends a public event nearly every day, whether a parade or a city council meeting, to introduce himself to voters and find out what issues are important to them.
â€œI like to think that I generally know what concerns people, but I don’t know everything,â€ Hastert said. â€œYou learn more by listening than talking.â€
He said bringing more fiscal responsibility to government will not be the only focus of his platform. However, overspending by lawmakers is a concern that stands out in the conversations he has had with District 14 residents.
â€œThe top thing on everybody’s mind is the economy,â€ he said.
Local candidate’s background
Ethan Hastert, 31, a Republican candidate in the race for 14th U.S. Congressional District in 2010, lives in Elburn’s Blackberry Creek with his wife, Heidi, and their son, Jack, 2.
Hastert received an undergraduate degree in business administsraton from University of Illinois in Champaign, where he met his spouse, and earned a law degree at Northwestern University Law School in Chicago.
He currently is employed as an attorney at Mayer Brown in Chicago. In his early 20s, he was an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis â€œScooterâ€ Libby.
He is the son of former District 14 Republican Congressman and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who resigned in 2007 and was succeeded by Democratic Rep. Bill Foster, through a special election in 2008.
PHOTO: U.S. Congressional candidate Ethan Hastert enjoys some down time in his backyard with his son, Jack, his wife, Heidi, and their golden retrievers, Atlas and Odin. Photo by Martha Quetsch