In an election cycle where public employee unions have been the target of many GOP candidates, the Republican running for Congress in the southwest suburbs picked up an unlikely endorsement Monday – from a teachers union.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, who’s in one of Illinois tightest Congressional races in the newly redrawn 11th District, received the endorsement of the Illinois Education Association and its parent group, the National Education Association.
Biggert is one of the few Republicans congressional candidates the IEA is supporting in 2012, according to a spokeswoman.
At a press conference Monday, Biggert struck a bipartisan note, and even voiced her support for teachers unions, which traditionally lean Democratic.
“I think that education unions are the teachers, and they’re the heart…of public education,” Biggert said. “They’re the ones that are…training our kids to be able to compete in this world.”
In late September, the NEA’s political arm dished out more than $546,000 for TV and online ads supporting Biggert, according to federal election records.
IEA representatives said they chose Biggert because they liked her voting record on education issues in Congress, including her opposition to school vouchers. But they declined to say why the NEA wouldn’t endorse Biggert’s Democratic challenger, former U.S. Rep. Bill Foster.
Foster won the NEA’s endorsement in 2008, when he was running in a different district.
In an interview Monday with WBEZ, Foster pointed out he’s already been endorsed by another teachers union umbrella group, the Illinois Federation of Teachers.
“The fact that Judy Biggert’s support among teachers is slipping, and that now half of the teachers unions are now…working against her, despite the many years of seniority she has in Congress, is really a reflection of her rightward drift as she follows the rest of the Tea Party Congress,” Foster said.