A career Navy aviator now living in Chatham is considing a run as a Democratic candidate for the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. RAY LaHOOD, R-Peoria.
CHUCK GIGER, 59, who retired from the Navy as a captain in 1996 -- three years after he briefed then-President BILL CLINTON about an aircraft carrier on the way to Bosnia -- says he thinks his track record as "a leader, manager and motivator of people" would serve him well in the office.
"I am new," he said of his possible first-time run. "I'm a fresh face. I've never been in politics. That's a plus and a minus. I realize that."
But while much of politics is polarized, he said he thinks he has the experience to bring people together.
"I'm very good at reaching consensus, finding the common ground … yet still accomplishing the mission," Giger said.
A Pittsfield native who was a scholarship football player at Western Illinois University, Giger also has a doctorate in psychology and now works as a clinical ethicist at Memorial Medical Center. He returned to Illinois about two years ago to help his widowed mother, who now lives in Springfield.
Giger said he briefed Clinton "a few times" in 1993 on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt when Giger was the battle group operations officer.
He said he was against the war in Iraq "from a year before it started," and "just saw that there wasn't any real threat there… any more than other places in the world."
"Having been in charge of a lot of combat operations … no one could predict how it was going to go," he said, after what he considers the easier initial stage of "rolling in there and conquering." He said he knows that people in the Pentagon briefed officials, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, about potential long-term problems, but the advice "fell on deaf ears."
Giger also volunteered at a Veterans Administration hospital in Phoenix in 2004-05 and said he is concerned about the "terrible price" of the war being paid by some people. He doesn't have a detailed plan, but wants to stop the war "in a way that it doesn't put the troops in any more harm's way."
Giger has been divorced since 2001, has a grown daughter, and recently moved to Chatham, where he lives with his girlfriend. He is just outside the 18th District, but would move into the district if he runs and wins. The law requires a member of Congress to live in the state, but not the House district.
Giger was among potential candidates who met with Democratic county chairmen and members of the party's state central committee from the 18th Congressional District at a meeting in Lincoln on Sept. 29. Giger said he thought that Circuit Judge RICHARD GRAWEY, who sits in Peoria, would be the top candidate. But Grawey since removed himself from consideration.
Other Democrats still looking at the race are former Bradley University basketball coach DICK VERSACE and former state Rep. BILL EDLEY.
Giger said he would run if county chairs endorse him or nobody in the primary. He said he would not run if one of the other candidates gets the nod.
As of Friday, said TIM TIMONEY, Sangamon County Democratic chairman, no endorsement had been made.
Former Gov. GEORGE RYAN and his wife, LURA LYNN, will be in Springfield from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Pasfield House, 525 S. Pasfield St., Springfield, to sign copies of a book about the Executive Mansion.
The book, which sells for $55, is called "At Home with Illinois Governors: A Social History of the Illinois Executive Mansion." The book is written by the former First Lady along with historian DAN MONROE. Proceeds from the sale will go to the Executive Mansion Association for mansion conservation. The books also are signed by former Govs. Jim Thompson and Dan Walker.
The book features original watercolor paintings by Kay Smith. The event is co-sponsored by Pasfield House and the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, Chicago.
Bernard Schoenburg can be reached at (217) 788-1540 or firstname.lastname@example.org.