Rep. Daniel B. Crane (R-Ill.), the outspoken moralist who was caught at adultery, came home to face the music today and heard almost nothing but hymns of praise from his constituents.
In three town meetings in his rural, conservative Illinois district, Crane received several fervent promises of support and only one question about his recently being censured by the House for having had an affair with a teen-age congressional page.
"Well, I know I did wrong," Crane said when a Baptist minister asked about his "moral integrity." "I still believe in the Ten Commandments even though I broke one of them. I know what is right is even though I did wrong."
That response drew an ovation from the nearly 100 constituents in the meeting.
Crane and his wife both said that they were pleasantly surprised at the subdued reaction to his Washington scandal. "It was hard to face people, not knowing what might happen," Judy Crane said afterward.
But the congressman, who has announced his candidacy for reelection, conceded that he still could face serious political trouble at home.
Several senior leaders of Crane's party here asked him not to run next year. If he survives a primary battle, three prominent Democrats are anxious to run against him.
Even without a scandal, Crane might have faced a difficult reelection campaign. After winning 70 percent of the vote in 1980, he dropped to 52 percent in the last election.
Regardless of how they line up politically, most people in Illinois' 19th Congressional District agree that it is not congenial territory for a married man who admitted to having had sexual relations several times with a teen-age girl in Washington while his wife and six children were in Illinois.
The 19th, which sprawls along the state's eastern border, is one of the few congressional districts where farming and mining still rank among the leading occupations. Except for Champaign, a university town of 58,133, the district has nothing close to a big city or a suburb.
Politically, the district is conservative, strongly committed to President Reagan and his policies. Philosophically, the 19th is attached to what city-dwellers might consider old-fashioned values.
The area still has a strong sense of traditional gender and family roles. "No girls allowed in back room," reads a sign in Darb's, the luncheonette and poolroom on Main Street here. It is an area where it is safe for a politician to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment, as Crane always has.
"Let me tell you about people here," said Harry (Babe) Woodyard, a farmer and prominent Republican.
"I had this old pickup. Had it five years. Drove it downtown every day, left it right at the courthouse. And when I went to trade it in, I couldn't get the ignition key out. It had frozen right in there 'cause I never took it out once in five years.
"You don't have to worry about people stealing your truck. You can trust people here."
When Crane, a dentist, first ran for Congress here in 1978, he seemed perfectly suited to his district. He was a strong conservative and an unyielding advocate of what he called "family values and God's moral laws." Crane has taken his wife and some of his children to every town meeting or campaign event.
Thus, when the scandal broke last month, Crane faced an incipient revolt in his party. He seems to have headed it off, at least temporarily, with his quick decision to stay in office and campaign for another term.
Crane said today that he decided to run again at the urging of his constituents, his colleagues and--most importantly--his wife, whom he calls "Midget." Judy Crane's diminutive aspect belies a sharp political intuition and a spunky determination to win. She said today that she has channeled all her energy into her husband's campaign for reelection.
"I love my husband," she said. "I've forgiven him. So I'm going to stand behind him. And that means I'm going to do everything I have to do to get him reelected."
Crane has sent his wife to represent him at two meetings of the district's Republican leaders since the scandal broke. Monday night Judy Crane told the Republican county chairmen, "Dan and I are running no matter what. We're running right to the end."
At today's town meetings, Crane, with his wife at his side, delivered his usual strenuous indictment of "big-spending liberals" and "environmental freaks" in Washington, and the "Marxist radicals" who are opposing U.S. interests in Central America. His audiences, ranging from 30 to over 100, seemed to be in strong agreement.
Here in Hoopeston a woman expressed concern that her son would be sent to fight in Central America.
Crane said American troops should be sent to the region. "It's one of the most vital areas for us to become involved," he said, adding that Marxism is on the move there.
After completing his answer, Crane received a loud round of applause from the worried mother and the rest of his audience.