Hastert Resigning From House Later Tonight

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) formally submitted his resignation this afternoon to current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.  He will officially be stepping down from Congress at 11:59 p.m. EST tonight.

“Serving for almost 21 years as a Representative of the people of the 14th District of Illinois has been a high honor for me. I am grateful to them and proud of all that we have been able to accomplish together. But the time has now come to spend more time with my family which sacrificed for so long to enable me to serve,” Hastert said in a statement.

“By selecting this specific time to resign, it allows Governor Blagojevich the opportunity to announce a special primary to select candidates for my unexpired term on February 5, 2008, an already established primary day.”

Blagojevich will now be tasked with setting a timetable for both the special election primary and general. Hastert's preferred -- and the most likely primary date is February 5, 2008 --  to coincide with the state’s regularly-scheduled presidential and Congressional primaries.

Blagojevich now has five days to set the special election dates, and must set the special general election date within the next 120 days.  The latest possible date for the special general election would be in mid-March.

The two leading Republican candidates for Hastert's seat are wealthy dairy shop owner Jim Oberweis and conservative state senator Chris Lauzen.  Both Oberweis and Lauzen have spent some of their own personal fortune on their campaigns.

On the Democratic side, all eyes are on scientist Bill Foster, who also is partially self-funding his campaign.