June 27, 2003
BY SCOTT FORNEK Political Reporter
Waving a rubber-coated horseshoe his great-grandfather invented more than 80 years ago for quieter milk deliveries, North Shore businessman Andy McKenna Jr. launched his Republican bid for U.S. Senate on Thursday, with a pledge to create jobs by encouraging similar innovations.
"I'm going to be the jobs senator," McKenna said. "I'm going to put forward those ideas that are going to create jobs."
McKenna is the latest millionaire to enter the 2004 contest to succeed Republican Peter Fitzgerald.
He did not rule out using some of his own money on the race, but unlike Fitzgerald in 1998 or Democratic candidate M. Blair Hull this time around, McKenna does not intend to finance the bulk of his effort out of his own wallet.
"This is not going to be a campaign of one," McKenna said. "I don't believe in self-funded campaigns."
A Glenview resident, McKenna, 46, officially announced his bid for the Senate at Multi Electric Manufacturing, a West Side factory he chose to spotlight the role that he believes innovation plays in creating jobs. The firm began producing electrical fuses but now manufactures lighting the military uses to quickly create airports.
"They're growing employment in this plant because they innovated and developed a product that's needed across the world," McKenna said.
McKenna's family made its fortune in the paper business. He is president of Schwarz Paper Co. He said his father started at the company in the sales department.
But he said his family's entrepreneurial spirit traces at least back to his great-grandfather, who immigrated from Ireland a century ago. Robert Fruin made horseshoes for dairies in the late teens or early 1920s--a time when Chicago was first paving many of its streets.
"Their customers didn't like getting woken up by those noisy horseshoes," McKenna said. "And the horses would slip and slide on the ice. So my [great] grandfather innovated, and he developed a new patent."
The result was a horseshoe partially covered with rubber.
"This might be thought of as the first snow tire in America," McKenna told reporters as he held one up. "His innovation led to prosperity."
Blacksmiths and milk horses are few and far between today, but McKenna said he would encourage modern-day innovations by seeking a federal tax credit for small businesses that invest in technology that creates new jobs.
"When we lead in innovation, we will lead in prosperity," he said. "We need to work with President Bush to get our economy moving again."
Calling himself a "George W. Bush Republican," McKenna supports the president's tax cuts and war on terrorism. He opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger. He argues for supporting existing gun control laws, rather than creating new ones.
Surrounded by his wife, Mary, and their three daughters and one son, McKenna rejected the suggestion that he was another bored millionaire trying his hand at politics.
"I certainly don't come to this because I was looking for something to do," McKenna said. "I've got a deep personal commitment to public service, you know. I think building a business is a public service. I think being active in the community is a public service."
Four other rich GOP businessmen are running or considering entering the race--former investment banker Jack Ryan, dairy and investment magnate James Oberweis, lawyer and accountant John H. Cox and Chirinjeev Kathuria, a physician-turned-businessman.
Other potential GOP candidates include state Rep. Jim Durkin, DuPage County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom, former Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood, former state Sen. Patrick J. O'Malley, state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, RTA Chairman Thomas McCracken and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. John Borling.
Cox discounted McKenna's claim to be the jobs governor.
"Andy is a great guy, but you know he didn't create the jobs," Cox said. "It's a family business that his grandfather and father started. I've created jobs. . .. Andy is a wonderful guy and has his background of inherited wealth. My background is having built businesses myself with nobody helping me from day one."