Hastert brings a special touch to congressional elections

The Associated Press is reporting yesterday that former US House Speaker Dennis Hastert will resign from his congressional seat in Illinois this year, setting up a special election for his successor. There doesn’t seem to be any medical reason why Hastert, a Republican, can’t hang on until the next regularly scheduled election, but AP reporter Charles Babington speculates:

Republicans hope to hold the seat ahead of the November 2008 election, which some fear will draw large numbers of Democratic voters unhappy with President Bush and the Iraq war.

In addition to a smaller turnout, a special election will probably be limited to those who can raise money and put a campaign together relatively quickly. This seems to be a bipartisan tradition in Illinois, which has a Democratic member who succeeded his father in a "special" manner. As Jack Mellyn at CQ.Politics.com describes it:

William Lipinski’s decision to retire after the 2004 primary election paved the way for local party officials to select Daniel Lipinski as the Democratic nominee, as permitted under Illinois election law, and essentially assure his election that November in the strongly Democratic-leaning district.

So far, the only other early retirement from the current session of Congress was that of the Bay State’s own Marty Meehan, who was replaced by Niki Tsongas in a special election earlier this week. Other special elections have been prompted by the deaths of congressmen from Ohio and Virginia.