Wheaton construction worker Ted Thilly spent Monday looking for some career stability after finding himself laid off twice in the past two years, most recently three months ago.
"I'm getting a little desperate at this point," said Thilly, 55, who added he'd received only two responses to 35 job applications. "The unemployment (benefit) is just enough to cover (insurance), so you've got to tap into your savings."
Desperate was an oft-heard word from job seekers at a crowded jobs fair sponsored by four suburban Republican congressmen, including three freshmen seeking re-election. More than 1,200 people seeking jobs had sent notice they would attend the event featuring about 100 businesses, and the vehicles that spilled out of an Addison banquet hall parking lot illustrated the high level of interest.
For Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton and first-term Reps. Joe Walsh of McHenry, Randy Hultgren of Winfield and Bob Dold of Kenilworth, the jobs fair was a not-so-subtle attempt to offset a demonized view of an uncaring GOP-controlled House offered by the Obama White House. Dold, in fact, had a second job fair Monday closer to his 10th Congressional District.
"Without question, there's very stark differences about how to approach (jobs and the economy), and we think those differences need to be debated," Roskam, a member of the House GOP leadership team, told reporters after greeting those seeking jobs. "We've been very clear in our views on the way to move forward, but today is about the job seeker and the job-maker in trying to get them together."
In January 2010, when Walsh, Dold, Hultgren and Republican Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Manteno and Bobby Schilling of downstate Colona first entered Congress, Illinois unemployment was at 9 percent. After climbing to 10.1 percent last October, the rate stood at 8.7 percent in June.
Just as the GOP's presidential standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, has sought to attack Obama and other Democrats on the economy, so too have the state's Republican congressmen. The message resonated with Thilly, who said he credits the congressmen for wanting "to do something for this economy."
"It opens up your eyes a little bit that someone will help," said Thilly, a Republican voter. Still, the unemployed construction worker said he wanted to see "something definite" from Romney on how to improve the economy.
"There's no message here. This is reality out there. There will probably be almost 2,000 people coming through those doors today. That's the reality," Walsh said. "People are out of work and they're struggling and we're doing what we can … to try to match those people with jobs. That's it."
Meanwhile, three Democratic campaigns attacked new local cable TV ads criticizing Duckworth, Dold challenger Brad Schneider and former one-term Rep. Bill Foster in the southwest suburban 11th District. Foster is challenging Republican Rep. Judy Biggert of Hinsdale.
The ad run by the New Prosperity Foundation, a Chicago-based super PAC, accuses the three of backing a return of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as speaker and of supporting big government. The super PAC is led by Republican businessman Ronald Gidwitz and Gregory Baise, head of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association.
Gidwitz would not disclose how much money was spent on the ad buy but said the commercials, which began running Monday, would air for the next few weeks.