Democrats on Tuesday wiped out Republican gains made in Illinois' congressional delegation two years ago capitalizing on a new map and getting a
bounce from the home-state president.
Three suburban Republican congressmen went down to defeat and Democrats appeared on their way to victory in two of three competitive Downstate races. In addition, three of the five Republican freshmen who won in 2010 lost Tuesday.
Leading the way was Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth, who defeated freshman Republican Rep. Joe Walsh in the northwest suburban 8th Congressional District.
Former Democratic Rep. Bill Foster is headed back to Congress after defeating veteran Republican Rep. Judy Biggert. And on the North Shore, Democratic challenger Brad Schneider narrowly defeated freshman Republican Rep. Robert Dold.
Democrats, by virtue of their control of state government, got to draw the new boundaries following the federal census. The Democratic goal was to reverse the 11-8 Republican edge in the state's House delegation, and the party was headed to a 12-6 advantage. Illinois lost one seat due to redistricting.
Meanwhile, a majority of Illinois representatives -- including Jesse Jackson Jr., who literally phoned in his campaign while on medical leave -- appeared on the way to their expected victories Tuesday night.
Nationally, Democrats in Washington had said Illinois was the road to retaking the House from Republicans who have run it for two years. But Republicans were on track to retain control of the House.
Schneider wins 10th District
Schneider, a political newcomer and business consultant, won a redrawn 10th District with 50.5 percent of the vote to Dold's 49.5 percent with 99 percent of the precincts reporting, according to unofficial results.
"Together, we just made history," Schneider told supporters.
Dold led most of the night, but a late Schneider surge in Lake County put him over the top.
"We worked hard, made tremendous sacrifices and didn't let the daunting odds of redistricting get in our way," Dold said.
Schneider won despite being outspent by Dold and savaged by millions of dollars in attack ads by outside groups.
Dold took in $4.2 million to Schneider's $2.5 million. National parties and interest groups spent $5 million in ads on Dold's behalf, more than twice the amount spent backing Schneider.
The 10th District has long been a target for Democrats seeking to capitalize on voters who backed their party's presidential candidate but sent Republicans to Congress. Dold won the seat in 2010 with 51 percent of the vote.
But this year was supposed to be easier for Democrats as they redrew the district to include more friendly pockets. The change even left Dold's house outside the district.
Both Dold and Schneider worked to cast themselves as small businessmen willing to reach across party lines on moderate policy proposals. Dold, 43, of Kenilworth is president of his family's pest control business while Schneider, 51 of Deerfield, spent years in consulting and insurance businesses.
Each candidate, however, hoped to convince voters that the other was an ideologue unwilling to buck his party.
Foster captures 11th District
Foster completed his political comeback, outdistancing Biggert in a race that wasn't as close as expected. He scored 55 percent to 45 percent for Biggert with 98 percent of the unofficial vote counted late Tuesday.
"What a night. I am grateful to each and every one of you," Foster told supporters. "I look forward to working hard for you and the citizens of the 11th District."
Biggert lost in all corners of the district, getting walloped in Will County and Aurora while failing to win in Republican-rich DuPage County.
"We turned what was supposed to be a Democrat slam-dunk into one of the most competitive races in the country and we made them work for it and I don't regret that at all," Biggert said. "We put up a heck of a fight, so thank you for that."
The new 11th District included roughly half of Biggert's old seat centered around Naperville but stretched much farther west into Aurora, which Foster represented previously. The wild card for both sides was the district's southern stretch into Joliet and Will County.
If Biggert was able to fight to a draw there, her campaign manager Mike Lukach had predicted victory. Foster won 61 percent of the Will vote and won 70 percent in Aurora.
Tuesday's returns came after Foster dipped into his own pocket for $500,000, much of it spent on a last-minute TV ad in a race where both sides shelled out millions of dollars on negative ads trying to paint the other as an out-of-touch millionaire.
Foster, a 57-year-old Harvard-educated physicist, highlighted Biggert's 30 years in some form of elected office, her support for granting tax cuts to "millionaires like herself" and her votes in favor of Republican budgets he insisted would jeopardize the future of Medicare.
Foster, who was ousted from the 14th District in 2010, sought in part to appeal to the new district's Latino voters, who make up 22 percent of the 11th's population and 41 percent of Aurora. Foster stressed his vote for -- and Biggert's vote against -- the DREAM Act, legislation that would have provided young Latinos a path to citizenship.
Biggert, 75, of Hinsdale, portrayed herself as a reasonable moderate while slamming support for Obama's stimulus package and criticizing the Naperville Democrat for layoffs he oversaw at his former company 11 years ago in Wisconsin.
In western Illinois, Democratic challenger Cheri Bustos, a former journalist and city council member, claimed victory over freshman Republican Rep. Bobby Schilling. Bustos had 53 percent of the vote to Schilling's 47 percent, with 84 percent of precincts reporting in the 17th District that runs along Illinois' northwestern edge, encompassing parts of the Rockford, Quad Cities and Peoria areas.
In central Illinois, Republican Rodney Davis, a former GOP congressional aide, appeared headed for a win over Democrat David Gill, a repeat candidate and physician. Davis got 48 percent to 45 percent for Gill with 87 percent in. Their open seat 13th District stretches from Champaign southwest to the Mississippi River.
In far southern Illinois, Democratic attorney Bill Enyart was ahead with 50 percent of the vote compared with 44 percent for Republican lumber executive Jason Plummer, who was refusing to concede defeat with 92 percent of ballots counted.
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