Young Democrat Lauren Underwood unseated Republican Randy Hultgren in Illinois’ 14th Congressional District, helping her party wrest control of the U.S. House away from the GOP.
Underwood, a 32-year-old who worked in the Obama administration, won 52 percent of the vote in a district that had been an exurban Republican bastion for many decades.
“Look at what we built together, seriously,” she told supporters at her election night party. “I aim to be the very best congresswoman this area has ever seen. And honestly, it won’t be that difficult. Because I’ll be the first congresswoman this area has ever seen.”
As an African-American woman in a district that’s 86 percent white, Underwood began her victory speech by making reference to Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman in Congress.
She said she’s a “regular middle-class woman” who showed what can be done in the American system.
“We are a democracy, and we demand better,” she said, taking clear shots at several positions staked by President Donald Trump. “I work for you, and I cannot wait to get started.”
Underwood grew up in Naperville and is a graduate of the University of Michigan and John Hopkins University.
After getting her nursing degree, she moved to Washington, D.C., to work at a nonprofit and later in the Department of Health and Human Services under former President Barack Obama.
While on the campaign trail, Underwood frequently cited her own pre-existing heart condition and training as a nurse as a reason for running. Her key campaign issue was maintaining and improving the Affordable Care Act.
“We the people have stood up to say health care is a human right,” she said.
Underwood had the support of many top Democrats and was one of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red-to-Blue” candidates.
Underscoring her status as one of the candidates expected to help flip the House, Underwood was one of seven candidates to get a Ben & Jerry’s flavor named in her honor this year.
Former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert had controlled the seat for two decades, and Hultgren represented the far western and northwestern suburbs since winning election in 2010.
He conceded the race shortly after 10 p.m.
“God bless America, and thank you again for all that you’ve done for us,” Hultgren told supporters in his concession speech.
Hultgren, who lives in Plano, had won about 60 percent of the vote in 2016.
Hultgren disagrees with several of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, including capping the number of refugees and separating families at the border. He has sponsored legislation to combat sex trafficking. But Hultgren supported Trump’s tax overhaul and voted for the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in 2017.
In her speech Tuesday, Underwood cited that vote as a spark for her campaign.