In 1988, with politics on his mind, Blagojevich attended a fundraiser for Mell, where he asked a more politically connected friend to introduce him to the alderman's 23-year-old daughter, Patti. They married two years later. Not long afterward, Mell recalls, Patti came to him and asked: "You know, Rod has always wanted to run for some office—do you think it'll ever come up?" Opportunity knocked in 1992—right on Mell's turf—and Blagojevich won a seat in the Illinois House. He served four years in Springfield and in 1996 was elected to U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski's old congressional seat.