Rep. Dennis Hastert to Announce Election Plans Friday

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert will soon put to rest all the speculation about whether he will run for office again, his office said Tuesday. Elsewhere, bets are on that he will call it a day.

Hastert, a Republican in his 11th term, is making an announcement on Friday from the Kendall County Courthouse in his 14th Congressional District in Illinois. He is following the press conference with a luncheon and congressional briefing for donors and supporters of the eponymous Hastert Club.

"He has made a decision and he'll be announcing it on Friday," district press secretary Lulu Blacksmith said, declining to reveal what the decision is.

Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., who served in the GOP leadership with Hastert and is retiring at the end of the 110th Congress, told CQ, a daily congressional newsletter, that he hadn't spoken to the lawmaker, but the announcement of a press conference is telling.

"Everybody was surprised when he stayed on beyond his speakership. He had reached the pinnacle of his political career as speaker. Staying on was totally about keeping the seat Republican and having some say in who his successor is," LaHood said.

The most powerful member of the House until the 2006 midterm election handed Democrats the majority in Congress, Hastert has quietly moved into the background.

As recently as July, the 65-year-old former wrestling coach said, "I'm running," according to the Cook County, Ill., Daily Herald. But news that Hastert is holding a press conference to state his plans has fueled speculation that he will not run.

Click here to read The Cook County Daily Herald article.

Local media and Internet chatter indicate that many believe Hastert will not run. Robert Novak, a syndicated columnist with The Chicago Sun-Times, further stoked the rumors when he reported in July that Hastert had confided in a close former aide that he's unlikely to run and could resign before his term concludes, citing an anonymous source.

Click here to read Robert Novak's article.

Hastert's fundraising also has slowed markedly. His campaign took in $157,946 in the period from April through June, and his cash on hand pales compared to previous years. His June 30 quarterly filing showed he only had $75,672 available. During the same period two years ago, Hastert had taken in $530,738 and had $686,633 on hand at the end, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Other Illinois lawmakers in apparently safe districts have raised considerably more money than Hastert, who won re-election last November with 60 percent of the vote. Democratic Rep. Rahm Emanuel had $1.26 million at the end of June; Rep. Jerry Costello, also a Democrat, had $1.7 million.

Ahead of the 2006 midterm election, Hastert had been speaker for nearly seven years — the longest tenure ever for a Republican House leader — but ethics scandals, including the Jack Abramoff lobbying probe as well as former Rep. Mark Foley's sexually explicit e-mails to a former teen page, cast a shadow over Hastert's leadership.

When the election was over, Republicans had lost 30 seats, Democrats had won control of both the House and Senate and Hastert — who removed himself from the race for House minority leader — did not remain in any of the House Republican leadership positions.

Possible GOP candidates are already lined up to fill Hastert's seat should he choose to give up the post he's held for 20 years. State Sen. Chris Lauzen, an Aurora Republican who lost a 1998 bid to become state comptroller, has said he would be a candidate for Congress if Hastert retires. Jim Oberweis, a failed candidate for governor and U.S. senator, recently attended the National Republican Congressional Committee's school for candidates.'s Greg Simmons and The Associated Press contributed to this report.