The uplifting words from Clinton and Kirk stood out after months of mind-numbing accusations and counteraccusations in the TV ads. The money behind those ads flowed in as polls suggested the 11th District contest was one of the closest House races in the country. By October 17, according to their latest federal filings, the Biggert and Foster campaigns had raked in more than $2.5 million each.
And that’s just the beginning. The race attracted more than $8 million in outside money, according to the Federal Election Commission. Figures from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics last month showed Biggert’s campaign with an edge in that spending.
On Friday, Foster resorted to lending his campaign $500,000. The money paid for his final TV ad, according to Foster campaign aide Aviva Bowen. “We have to keep pace with the millions that [Biggert], her allies and the rightwing super-PACs have put up in false claims on TV,” Bowen said.
Biggert’s team saw the loan differently. “Congressman Foster is clearly desperate and terrified that Illinois voters are about to reject him and his dishonest smear campaigns once again,” Biggert spokesman Gill Stevens wrote.
On Monday, the candidates made a flurry of stops across the barbell-shaped district, which includes parts of Aurora, Naperville, Bolingbrook, Joliet and other suburbs west and southwest of Chicago. Foster’s campaign said U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Maryland) was joining him on afternoon visits to sites set up for campaign volunteers. A Biggert aide said the Republican would attend a Joliet dinner hosted by the local chamber of commerce.
Amid the combative TV ads, both candidates claimed to be moderate and eager to work across party lines. And they did not stand far apart on some hot-button issues. Both, for example, warmed up to legal recognition of same-sex marriage and avoided weighing in on whether Joliet should pursue a privately run detention center that would hold immigrants awaiting deportation.
On other issues, particularly economic matters, the candidates showed greater differences. Foster blasted Biggert’s vote for a budget plan that would slash spending and overhaul Medicare, providing government subsidies to individuals who choose to buy private insurance.
On Social Security, Biggert backed enabling individuals to invest a portion of their contributions in the stock market — a proposal Foster called too risky. On health policy, Foster touted his vote for President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a law Biggert characterized as a jobs killer and sought to repeal. On taxes, Biggert supported extending all of President George W. Bush’s cuts, while Foster called for allowing them to expire for incomes above $250,000.Both Biggert and Foster said they were trying to protect the middle class but neither seemed to have a personal stake in reversing the economic squeeze of recent decades.
Biggert, 75, lives in Hinsdale and grew up in Wilmette, a suburb north of Chicago. Her father was a Walgreen Co. executive who headed the drugstore chain in the 1960s. She received a Northwestern University law degree and clerked for a federal judge. In politics, she began on a Hinsdale school board and made it to the U.S. House.
Foster, 55, and his brother launched a theater lighting business that made them rich. Foster, a Harvard-educated physicist, also spent more than 20 years at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Batavia, a suburb west of Chicago.