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Speaker of the House applauds Capito's efforts

October 14, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert lived up to his job title Friday night, speaking for a half-hour on everything from his past to the country's plans for Iraq before a crowd of hundreds of area Republicans.

He spoke at a formal dinner at Heritage Hall on U.S. 11 in Inwood to support U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who is seeking re-election.

As members of the large crowd sat at round tables and forked through salads, Hastert applauded the efforts of Capito, R-W.Va.

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"She brings good common sense, down-home, Main Street values," Hastert, 60, said. "She's not afraid to roll her sleeves up; she's not afraid to go to work."

Some newly elected members of Congress get to Washington and start reading big city newspapers and listening to big city pundits, he said. But not Capito.

"You can be very proud of her," Hastert said.

Before his speech, Hastert answered questions from reporters about Iraq and the resolution Congress passed this week giving President Bush the authority to use force against Iraq.

He called Saddam Hussein "a bad actor" and said a link exists between Hussein and al-Qaida. He said al-Qaida members are training in Iraq "as we speak."

If Hussein infiltrates the United States, the next large-scale terrorist attack could come from a home in Nebraska rather than a rocket launched across the sea or an airliner from the sky, he said.

Hastert said he believes Bush will garner support from foreign powers, though probably not as the senior Bush did 10 years ago. Now, other countries don't see as imminent a threat, he said.

"They didn't live through 9/11," he said. "We just can't tolerate that happening in this country again."

This is not Hastert's first visit to the Mountain State. He came two years ago as Capito launched her first campaign, and also has done some white-water rafting, he said.

"It's a beautiful place," he said.

At the Friday night dinner, Capito received a standing ovation and whistles before she said one word into the podium's microphone. Before heading to Martinsburg to debate her opponent, Charleston attorney Jim Humphreys, Capito introduced Hastert.

"He has been a true friend to me and to my country," she said. "He's an absolutely magnificent leader."

Years ago, Hastert led high school football and wrestling teams as their coach, he said. An Illinois teacher for 15 years, Hastert said that after he realized he did not want to make the jump to school administration, he decided instead to run for the state Legislature. His election to Congress followed.

Today, Hastert is in the midst of his second term as Speaker of the House. He was selected Speaker in 1999, following Newt Gingrich.

The Speaker, who is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the U.S. House of Representatives, is the third highest elected official in government.

Hastert lives in Yorkville, Ill.

Wrapping up his speech, Hastert told all those in attendance they must vote, put up yard signs, knock on doors and encourage others to punch the hole next to Capito's name.

"Just clapping for her and giving her a standing ovation isn't enough," he said.

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