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The Sudden Fall Of Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now let's trace the rapid arc of a political career. Aaron Schock won election to the Illinois legislature at the age of 23. At age 27, he won election to Congress. He was seen as a rising star in the Republican Party. And now, at age 33, he is heading home. He is resigning amid scandal. Here's Tanya Koonce of our member station WCBU.

TANYA KOONCE, BYLINE: It started six weeks ago with embarrassing questions about interior decorating at Schock's D.C. office, in motif harkening to the popular TV show "Downton Abbey." About the same time came reports of excessive private air travel across Schock's sprawling, gerrymandered district. Then came calls for a congressional ethics investigation. That's when Schock took to the AM Fox affiliate radio station in his district.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW)

AARON SCHOCK: Who benefits from me being smeared up one side, down the other, for the money that I'm raising for my re-election and for being one of the top five donors in the country for the Republican Party?

KOONCE: Schock blamed Democratic operatives for muddying the water. But then the information dam broke. Reports of reimbursements for questionable travel expenses and an alleged sweetheart real estate deal with a major donor. This week, it's more allegations, including discrepancies with car mileage reimbursements. But even after the local and national news accounts, many here seem stunned. Former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood held the seat for nearly seven terms.

RAY LAHOOD: I worried a little bit that - when some of these stories came out. But I certainly didn't think it was going to lead to his resignation.

KOONCE: But for constituents like Daniel Zerbonia, the resignation seems like confirmation.

DANIEL ZERBONIA: If he wasn't guilty, he wouldn't resign, so...

KOONCE: Zerbonia says he's known Schock since he won a seat on the Peoria Public School Board at the age of 18. Schock supporter Toner Babaovac always assumed he would ascend to a higher office and finds Schock's resignation puzzling.

TONER BABAOVAC: He's very, very well respected. So at this point, he's distracted because this is going to take a lot of work to unravel in a long period of time, and a lot of skeletons are going to come out. And so he's decided to get it over with now.

KOONCE: Ray LaHood's son, Illinois State Senator Darren LaHood, announced today he'll run for the seat. For NPR News, I'm Tanya Koonce. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tanya Koonce is the News Director at Peoria Public Radio. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism from Eastern Illinois University, and a M.A. in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield. Tanya started her news career in TV, managed two political campaigns after college, worked in state government and did some state association work before going back to school. Post master’s degree, she’s worked in commercial radio and operated her own freelance agency before taking a reporter position at WCBU in 2001, and becoming news director in 2008. She’s currently serving as the Treasurer of the Illinois News Broadcaster’s Association, lives in Peoria and loves discovering interesting people, places and things.

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