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Zinga vs. Hare

Zinga says her zeal is for the people

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

GALESBURG - Sitting in an Atlanta restaurant in 1997, Andrea Zinga's future husband, Chuck McClurg, asked what she planned to do after leaving the television news business. "I kind of want to run for Congress," she said raising a fork of spaghetti from her plate.

McClurg, expecting simpler retirement plans, recovered from the shock and asked her which area she would represent.

"The 17th," said Zinga, who was living in Atlanta, working for CNN.

From that day on, every once in a while, Zinga, a Macomb native, would mention the possibility.

"She was really developing a pattern of wanting to run," said McClurg, a former Galesburg resident.

Zinga, 56, was living and working in Texas when she was recruited by Quad Cities station WHBF-TV4. Part of her decision to return to the area in 2001 was fueled by her desire to run for Congress. Rather than immediately throwing her hat in the ring, she took the job at WHBF.

"It was in my plan to work in TV news and re-establish myself," she said, adding that people in the community needed to know "that I'm here to stay."

During that time she cared for her mother, who suffered from Parkinson's disease. When she died in 2002, Andrea, an only child, inherited five rental properties in Macomb and the Quad Cities that have become her primary source of income since retiring from WHBF-TV4 in August 2003.

Although she had always wanted to run for Congress, "the straw that broke the camel's back," was when Maytag announced it was leaving Galesburg, she said.

So, after she and McClurg married in December 2003, Zinga announced her candidacy for the 2004 election against 11-term U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Rock Island.

She lost that election 61 percent to 39 percent.

In December of that year, with less than a month to recover, she started once again visiting voters, considering a 2006 run.

"I think that first day I started thinking about it," she said. "You know what you would like to do better."

Almost two years later and with just weeks until the Nov. 7 election, Zinga is still meeting with voters. Last week alone she was scheduled for 14 hours of walking door-to-door, her favorite part of campaigning.

"The great part is you really hear what people think," she said.

Zinga, wearing a teal blazer, wool dress pants and flat, rubber-soled loafers made her way through a Coal Valley neighborhood with Marilyn Kieffer, the precinct committeewoman, on a Friday afternoon.

Before the two could decide if they should approach a house with a yard sign advertising a Democratic sheriff candidate, the home owner spotted her.

"I already voted for you, Andrea, and I'm a registered Democrat," said the man in a red flannel shirt, smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee out of a travel mug. "You got at least one vote."

She walked up his driveway and thanked him, but a few sentences into the conversation, a neighbor turned off his leaf blower and said, "She doesn't want to talk to you. She wants to talk to me because I'm going to vote for her."

The three discussed early voting and mutual acquaintances. She was confident as she listened, constantly looking them in the eyes in much the same way she looked squarely at the debate audience when answering questions Oct. 18 at Augustana College.

She used the same firm voice talking with those two voters as she did when she addressed her Democratic opponent Phil Hare in the debate.

At one point Hare criticized Medicare Part D and asked Zinga if she would work to rewrite the prescription drug bill if she were elected.

"I will not," she said with her chin up and shoulders back, staring directly at him.

What voters don't see in her formal delivery and policy rhetoric is her sense of humor, she said at her Moline headquarters.

"It tends to get kind of lost in a hard-fought political race," Zinga said.

Beyond politics, she talks about her five stepgrandchildren, the greatest and brightest, she said.

She was married once before for 11 years and is on friendly terms with her ex-husband. You never are prepared "for it not to last forever," she said, eager to change the subject.

Zinga has no children of her own, but considers her husband and her three stepchildren her family.

Her husband helps out with the campaign and said his primary resopnsibility is to drive Zinga to events and ensure she arrives on time.

"I have logged about 130,000 miles for Andrea since this started," he said. "I would do it again."

She doesn't have a wealth of staffers to fill in for her at an event if she needs a break or if she's double-booked, but luckily her "security blanket," a stack of newspapers, can travel with her.

"It bothers me that a majority of Americans get their news from TV," she said. Despite her career in broadcast news, she watches C-SPAN and listens to NPR, but relies on her 14 newspaper subscriptions to find out details of what's going on in the district.

She's a chronic clipper, cutting out important news articles or church dinner listings. Sometimes, as they pile up, her husband will take a pile and throw them out, only to discover that she's retrieved them.

"If I had my way, (reading is) all I would do," she said. "Knowledge is power."

She hopes that knowledge will pay off and she'll be sent to Washington, D.C., to represent the district.

On a campaign stop in the capitol, she walked through Georgetown, a neighborhood lined with brownstones and brick streets. She decided to walk through an open house.

"The rooms were about the size of ... this chair," she said. The house cost $525,000.

"I think living in Washington would be a challenge, but also what an honor," she said. "What an honor."

About Andrea Zinga

Age: 56

Party: Republican

Hometown: Originally from Macomb, resides in Coal Valley

Education: Macomb High School, Western Illinois University (B.Ed.), University of Illinois (M.S.)

Career History: Former teacher and TV reporter

Personal: Married for two years to Chuck McClurg, three grown stepchildren, five stepgrandchildren

Key Issues

War in Iraq: It's premature to set a timetable for pulling out of Iraq. She said the country should wait to do so until Iraq is stabilized and stable with self-governance.

Health care: Illinois needs lawsuit reform to cap non-economic damages in order to keep doctors in Illinois.

Jobs: She supports tax breaks for companies that create new jobs through technological and technical improvements.

Abortion: Opposes abortion, except when mother's life is at risk or in cases of incest or rape

Alternative energy: Supports efforts to decrease dependecy on foreign oil. Educate consumers on the benefits of ethanol and biodiesel.

Veterans: Wants to provide veterans with the best health care possible.

Immigration: Favors increased border control and supports heavy sanctions on companies that hire illegal immigrants.

MULTIMEDIA

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