Politics

Gen Y Republican

He’s from Illinois, young, smart and has a natural talent for relating to voters. And no, he’s not Barack Obama: he’s Aaron Schock, the newly elected U.S. representative for Illinois’ 18th district. Even Biden would like him — he’s young, clean, and articulate, and at 27, will bring a Generation Y voice to Congress in January.

In four campaigns (school board, state legislature twice, and now U.S. representative), he’s never run a negative ad. Instead, he talks about what he wants to do. He has taken his message into an urban district, even to the pulpits of his constituents’ churches. And when the mud starts slinging in Shock’s direction, he always has a clean and clear response.

“All I had to say was, “You’ve been there for eight years, and all you can do is talk about me?” Schock said. “People want someone who’s going to shoot straight with them.”

He’s also got new ideas for Congress. During his campaign, he talked about eliminating taxes on the production of new, renewable energy technologies, which would create a huge incentive for entrepreneurs to invest in technologies that consumers actually want to buy.

“It would get us there a lot quicker than simply dolling out federal grants to institutions of higher learning, or to these research centers,” Schock said.

It’s too early to pigeonhole Schock. He got into politics because he wanted to graduate early from high school and was told it was against state law. Schock found out “state law” was actually Peoria school board policy and began meeting with the seven members of the school board.

“In my opinion, they were not there for the right reasons — they were there for themselves, not for the kids,” Schock said. “Quite frankly, the only reason they didn’t want me to graduate early was because they didn’t want to lose the per person expenditure.”

So at 19, he ran for the school board and won. During his four years on the school board, he kept running into a state legislator that represented 80 percent of the school system and refused to meet with the board. She also said she didn’t believe businesses were being taxed enough in Illinois and voted for 300 taxes and fees against business proposed by the state’s new governor. By that time, Schock, who had begun buying real estate in high school, was a small businessman. He didn’t like what he heard from his representative in Springfield.

“She’s a Democrat in a Democrat district, and she’ll be there as long as she wants,” Schock said people told him. He ran against her anyway, and he won.

He’s done all this, unlike the Kennedys, without wealth or the backing of a political family.

“People look at me and my age and say, “Oh, you know, [he] must …come from this political family. Couldn’t be further from the truth,” Schock said. “Nobody had ever run for office. My parents never said, “Hey, you should run someday for office.” When I decided to run for the school board at 19, they thought I was crazy.”

He’s young, but he’s cautious. Schock packs conservative credentials — both the Illinois Federation for Right to Life and the NRA endorsed him — but has yet to commit to any conservative caucus in the U.S. House. He’ll roll up his sleeves the first day, but he’s not going to plunge headfirst into a pool of conservative legislation without thinking it through. He’ll have to prove himself as a conservative in a tough time.

He comes battle-tested from an Illinois environment where conservatives could claim protection only as an endangered species. As a state representative, the Republican Schock’s demographic was an urban district where 20,000 of the 40,000 voters were on food stamps. 25 percent of his constituents were African American. He had to overcome $980,000 worth of attack TV commercials against him in his first state house race (it was the most expensive house race in state history). His re-election race set a new record. When he got to the state legislature, the good old boy network advised him to keep quiet if he wanted re-election — in fact, they told him he shouldn’t vote like a Republican.

“I said, you know what, I’m 23 years old, I ran because I wanted to do what I think is right…I don’t need to be here, and if I lose, so be it, ” Schock said, and ended up voting twice against increase in minimum wage. “I have one of the most conservative voting records in the state house. I’ve got a 100 percent pro-life, pro-family, 100 percent with the second amendment. “

Aaron Schock will vote his conscience, and that may be lucky for conservatives.

This article is first in a series of HUMAN EVENTS profiles featuring newly elected conservatives in the House of Representatives.

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