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Foster glides past Biggert after race that looked tight

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Defying opinion polls that depicted a neck-and-neck contest, Democrat Bill Foster easily defeated Republican U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert in the 11th Congressional District on Tuesday. With nearly all precincts reporting, Foster had almost 58 percent of the vote; Biggert had 42 percent.

In his victory speech, Foster expressed misgivings about the race’s negative television advertising, a months-long barrage funded by campaign contributions and outside spending totaling roughly $14 million. “I sense that both Congresswoman Biggert and myself were forced into an increasingly ugly world of politics today — a world that we were both deeply uncomfortable with,” he said.

Biggert, a seven-term House member, appeared to blame her loss on congressional redistricting controlled by Illinois Democrats. “This race wasn’t supposed to happen,” she told supporters in her concession speech. “They thought that I would shy away from a tough race in a district tailor-made for my opponent, and they were wrong.”

Other factors contributing to Biggert’s defeat included strong Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts and growing Latino numbers in Chicago’s suburbs. In the 11th District — which includes parts of Aurora, Naperville, Bolingbrook and Joliet — Hispanics constitute 22 percent of the population. Foster rallied them by pointing to Biggert’s vote against the DREAM Act, a stalled bill that would have provided many young undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.

Despite a bitter tone through much of the race, the 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 chose 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.

The election marks a comeback for Foster, 55, who served almost three years in a nearby House district. Republican Randy Hultren unseated Foster in a 2010 election that swept the GOP into control of the House.

As the Republicans retain their majority, Foster is vowing to work with them by focusing on, as he puts it, “numbers instead of political positions.”

“We have to make sure that government investments are as cost-effective and highest-return as possible,” he told WBEZ late Tuesday. “And that’s something that Democrats and Republicans agree on.”

Foster said bipartisan points of unity could include cutting “military systems the Pentagon doesn’t want” and encouraging a rebirth of domestic manufacturing. “One of the best things about the ongoing recovery is that U.S. manufacturing is leading that,” he said.

Foster also had a prediction about the election results. He said they would end acrimonious debates about Obamacare and financial reregulation.


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