Shimkus maintains strong lead in tracking poll

Ann Knef Oct. 6, 2006, 9:45am

Republican Congressman John Shimkus maintains a strong lead over his Democrat challenger in the 19th District, according to a tracking poll conducted this week.

Shimkus, a four-term congressman from Collinsville, holds a 32-point lead over Danny Stover, a Centralia City Councilman and political science professor at Kaskaskia College. The two face each other in the Nov. 7 election.

In spite of the intense House page scandal coverage and calls from Democratic leaders for Shimkus to step down as chairman of the House Page Program, Shimkus's support has not weakened.

Wednesday's poll, according to a GOP operative, showed that Shimkus's high favorability rating in the district had not been affected even after sharp criticism from House Democrats and local Democrats looking for pre-election advantage.

Shimkus shot back at critics yesterday saying he will not be forced out by "false accusations" and "politics of personal destruction."

His campaign committee released a statement from the family of the Louisiana teenager who first reported receiving "overly friendly" e-mails from former Rep. Mark Foley, the Florida Republican who abruptly resigned last week when the scandal broke.

Shimkus has said he abided by the page's parents' request for him to intervene and to keep the matter confidential.

Following is the full text of the statement released by the teenager's family Oct. 5:

We would like to express our support for our congressman, Rodney Alexander, whose office sponsored our son's position as a House page. As far as we know, Congressman Alexander's conduct in this matter has been beyond reproach. He has tried his best to do what we have asked him to do from the very beginning: Namely, to protect the privacy of our son and family from the intense media scrutiny we are now having to endure.

In the fall of 2005, as soon as Congressman Alexander became aware of the e-mails received by our son, he called us. He explained that his office had been made aware of these e-mails by our son and that while he thought the e-mails were overly friendly, he did not think, nor did we think, that they were offensive enough to warrant an investigation.

Rather, we asked him to see that Congressman Foley stop e-mailing or contacting our son and to otherwise drop the matter in order to avoid a media frenzy. He did so. If we had any other knowledge or evidence of potential impropriety, we would have asked for the matter to be treated differently. For instance, we were not aware of the instant messages that have come to light in the past few days.

These instant messages, which have only recently surfaced as a result of the news of the ambiguous e-mails received by our son, are separate matters.

As a young man with integrity who had the courage to question the intention of the e-mails, we respect and honor our son as a hero. Despite his courageous actions, he is becoming a victim due to the harassment by some of the media. Please honor our request that we be left alone. There is nothing more that we can contribute to this ongoing matter. He is not the story, and we feel this intense media scrutiny could endanger our son and family.

We have no intention of discussing this further. Thank you.

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