Rod Blagojevich Elected to US House of Representatives

In 1996, Blagojevich surrendered his seat in the state house to campaign in Illinois's 5th congressional district.

The district had long been represented by the powerful Democrat, Daniel Rostenkowski, who served as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Rostenkowski was defeated for re-election in 1994 after pleading guilty to mail fraud and had been succeeded by Republican Michael Patrick Flanagan.

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.