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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Wheelan '88 seeks U.S. Rep. seat

Wheelan, who describes himself as a moderate Democrat, is one of approximately 25 candidates who have declared their intention to run for the congressional seat.
Wheelan, who describes himself as a moderate Democrat, is one of approximately 25 candidates who have declared their intention to run for the congressional seat.

Illinois law stipulates that Emanuel's successor be chosen through public election, though the specific nature of that election will be determined by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, D-Ill. The election could occur almost immediately or several months from now, and it could consist of a primary and then a general election, or a single election.

Wheelan, who described himself as a moderate Democrat, is one of approximately 25 candidates who have declared their intention to run for the congressional seat, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley told the Chicago Sun-Times. Wheelan has not been mentioned in major or local media coverage of the race. Some of the other candidates named in major news outlets include 38th Ward Alderman Thomas Allen, 47th Ward Alderman Gene Schulter, Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley, State Representative John Fritchey and former State Representative Nancy Kaszak, who ran against Emanuel in the 2002 election.

Wheelan said that the competition in the race and the unique structure of a special election will help inform his campaign strategy.

"This becomes a question of, 'Which of these guys is not like the others?' And in a race of the Chicago aldermen, a policy guy stands out," Wheelan said in an interview with The Dartmouth. "The Chicago City Council is not historically a bastion of deep thinking; no one confuses it with a think tank."

Wheelan, a self-described centrist, said that he would bring a unique grasp of international and domestic policy and economic issues to Congress.

"My campaign will be built around the concept that I can take ideas and translate them into real policy solutions that matter to people," Wheelan said. "I think that both on the domestic and the international fronts we're in crisis, and so if now's not the time for somebody who brings substantive knowledge of both to the table, than it'll never be the time."

"Whether that'll be good enough to get me elected or not is another question," he added.

Wheelan is a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago, author of The Naked Economist: Undressing the Dismal Science, and former Midwest correspondent for the Economist. After graduating from Dartmouth, he wrote policy columns for the Valley News while traveling throughout Asia, became a speech-writer for then Governor of Maine, Republican John McKernan, got his doctorate in public policy from the University of Chicago, wrote for the Economist and directed a think tank before returning to the University of Chicago to teach. He returns to Dartmouth each summer to teach classes in economics and public policy.

Wheelan is also working on a book about moderate politics, he said. He and his wife, Leah Yegian Wheelan '88, whom he said he met on his freshman floor, have three young children.

Wheelan acknowledged that while he hopes to be the candidate who stands out, he could also get lost in the shuffle. At this point in the race, he has hired a full-time campaign manager and treasurer and has raised less than $10,000 on Act Blue, the online contribution web site accessible through his campaign site.