BEAN, Melissa L.

Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
BEAN, Melissa L.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
1962–

Biography

After more than 20 years in the technology industry, Melissa Bean turned her sights on Congress and fought an unlikely battle to oust a longtime veteran of the House to get there. In her three terms, Bean advocated for a balanced budget and strong safety precautions for children on the internet. “One of the reasons I came to Congress was to bring real world business perspective to government,” she once said. “In the business world, accountability and results matter.”1

Melissa Luburich Bean was born in Chicago, Illinois, on January 22, 1962, and adopted by George and Victoria Luburich, who had three more children. Growing up around her father’s engineering firm, Bean knew from an early age that business was her professional calling.2 She graduated from Maine East High School just northwest of Chicago in 1980, and she earned an associate’s degree at Oakton Community College two years later.3 To pay her way through school, Bean had worked part time at an expanding technological company that quickly promoted her through its ranks. Roughly a decade later, she started her own consulting company.4 She married Alan Bean in 1985, and together they had two daughters. Bean continued to take classes throughout her career and completed her bachelor’s degree in political science at Roosevelt University in 2002, amid her first campaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

A self–described “underdog,” Bean entered her first race for the House with essentially no political experience. In 2000, she had campaigned for a Democratic candidate, Lance Pressl, in his unsuccessful run against incumbent Philip Crane, a Republican who had since 1969 represented a suburban Illinois district west of Chicago.5 Before the next election cycle, Bean surprised friends by announcing that she would pursue the Democratic nomination and challenge the powerful Crane. She worked to overcome her lack of name recognition on the campaign trail by hitting train stations, grocery stores, and bingo games.6 She called residents at night and handed out packages of jelly beans so voters would remember her name. Bean argued Crane had become out of touch with the district over his long tenure.7 In the 2002 general election, Bean managed to capture nearly 43 percent vote—providing one of Crane’s worst showings since taking office. Though she lost, she came away with the sense that the district was “ready for change.”8

Campaigning on the same message in 2004, Bean unseated Crane and won election to the House with almost 52 percent of the vote.9 She also garnered an edge with late support from national Democratic groups.10 “We’re going to have to work hard,” Bean said after her victory, “whether that’s worrying about affordable college loans, prescription drugs, Social Security or Medicare or small–business owners who are bearing an unfair share of the tax burden.”11

Elected to the 109th Congress (2005–2007), Bean served on the Financial Services and Small Business committees. She joined the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition and advocated for a balanced federal budget. Her legislative agenda focused on her professional interests in technology, including bills that emphasized personal data protection. Bean also introduced a bill that intended to protect children from online predators. “Having teenage daughters of my own, I discovered while they enjoyed the opportunity to express themselves with popular networking sites, they had no appreciation for the dangers that lurked there,” Bean said when recognizing National Internet Safety Month in 2007. “The Internet has increased productivity and opened a new world of opportunities for our children; but at the same time, it has opened a world of dangers. These threats, whether it be unwanted online solicitations, Internet scams or cyberbullying, are dangerous and real. In order for our children to be protected from the dangers of the Internet, we must work together to raise awareness of Internet safety.”12

Bean won re–election to the 110th Congress (2007–2009), defeating David McSweeney by more than six percentage points during an election cycle that saw Democrats reclaim the House majority after a dozen years.13 Bean continued her service on the Financial Services and Small Business committees, and she became Chair of the Subcommittee on Finance and Tax in the Small Business committee. Five of her sponsored bills or resolutions passed the House, including the Preservation Approval Process Improvement Act of 2007, which became law and reduced regulations for investments in affordable housing. She also continued her legislative interest in technology issues, particularly children’s online safety. Bean easily won re–election to the 111th Congress (2009–2011) and continued her work on the Financial Services and Small Business committees.

The 2010 election cycle was unfavorable to incumbents, and Bean was challenged by Republican businessman Joe Walsh, who was underfunded but backed by the Tea Party movement.14 Walsh defeated Bean by just 290 votes—the closest House election of 2010.15 After the election, Bean became the CEO of a private corporation in Chicago.

Footnotes

1Congressional Record, House, 110th Cong., 1st sess. (5 January 2007): 291.

2Politics in America, 2008 (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2009): 338.

3Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–present, "Melissa L. Bean," http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=B001253, (accessed 30 May 2012).

4Jamie Sotonoff, “Distinctions are Crystal Clear Between Crane, Bean,” 20 October 2002, Chicago Daily Herald: 4.

5Colleen Mastony, “Crane Shrugs Off Latest Challenge; Newcomer Bean Is Put to the Test,” 29 October 2002, Chicago Tribune: Metro, 1.

6Sotonoff, “Distinctions are Crystal Clear Between Crane, Bean”; Mastony, “Crane Shrugs Off Latest Challenge; Newcomer Bean Is Put to the Test.”

7Sotonoff, “Distinctions are Crystal Clear Between Crane, Bean”; “The Bottom Line District Candidates Have Different Ideas on How to Balance the Nation’s Budget,” 27 October 2002, Chicago Daily Herald: 1.

8Jamie Sotonoff, “Crane Able to Shake Off Tough Challenge,” 6 November 2002, Chicago Daily Herald: 18.

9“Election Statistics, 1920 to Present,” http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/election.html.

10Rudolph Bush, “Bean’s Win 4 Years in the Making,” 4 November 2004, Chicago Tribune: C1.

11Rudolph Bush and Richard Wronski, “Crane’s Long Run is Over; Democrat Bean Topples 18–term Congressman,” 3 November 2004, Chicago Tribune: C1.

12Congressional Record, House, 110th Congress, 1st sess. (12 June 2007): H6256.

13“Election Statistics, 1920 to Present,” http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/election.html.

14Dan Hinkel and Katherine Skiba, “Bean concedes: Walsh is winner in 8th District,” 17 November 2010, Chicago Tribune: C10.

15“Election Statistics, 1920 to Present,” http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/election.html.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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Bibliography / Further Reading

"Melissa Bean" in Women in Congress, 1917-2006. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of History & Preservation, U. S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2006.

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Committee Assignments

  • House Committee - Financial Services
  • House Committee - Small Business
    • Finance and Tax - Chair
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