The 11th Congressional District of Illinois is likely to be among the closest House races this fall. District 11 has historically gone Republican. President George W. Bush carried in 2000 and 2004, and Congressman Jerry Weller held the seat from 1995-2009. Democrat Deborah Halvorson currently controls the seat. Tim Baldermann had won the Republican nomination in 2008, but then dropped out shortly after winning. Marty Ozina then received the nomination, and was defeated 59-34 in the general election. On the same day, Obama carried by eight percentage points. The northeast corner of the district touches up on some southwest Chicago suburbs in Will County, while the western part stretches along the more rural Interstate 80, and a small piece goes all the way down south to Bloomington, Illinois.
This race features Republican nominee and 32-year-old Air Force Captain Adam Kinzinger against the Democrat incumbent. Kinzinger got his start in politics at age 20, serving on McClean County board while still in college at Illinois State. The candidate told TAS on Wednesday that he joined the Air Force in October, 2001, convinced of his duty to serve after the 9/11 attacks.
Kinzinger is running on "repealing and re-starting" healthcare reform, opposed to cap-and-trade, and is pledging not to raise taxes while in Congress. He supported many of the Republican healthcare talking points such as more serious tort reform and allowing people to purchase across state-line insurance, but did concede that he supports some parts of Obamacare such as coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions and coverage for young people under their parents' plans. While Kinzinger is currently holding townhalls that center on repeal of the plan, he admits that actual repeal would be difficult.
Kinzinger was quick to draw analogies to the military while dwelling on the costs of the healthcare plan. "I'm a military pilot, I've seen government programs when it comes to defense having an initial cost estimate and then down the road costing two or three times what they said," Kinzinger explained. "The F-35s now cost twice what was estimated ... That's going to happen with this program." When discussing military issues, Kinzinger confirmed that he supported the Afghanistan surge, and that he would like to keep Don't Ask Don't Tell.
As November approaches, it is likely that jobs and deficits will dominate the discussion. But politically, Kinzinger may still enjoy extra support due to the healthcare bill when considering the district's relatively high rate of healthcare coverage. According to Washington Post, District 11 has the 5th lowest uninsured rate in Illinois out of 19 districts, with 11.1 percent uninsured. The four districts with the lower rates are all represented by Republicans. Voters who are annoyed at Medicare changes, tax increases, and believe that the Congress has neglected job creation might come out heavily for Kinzinger.
On the other hand, Obama might want to campaign heavily in this district, specifically in the college town of Bloomington and some blue collar parts of Will County. If he comes to be perceived as triumphant after passing healthcare, and the recession eases, he might be able to help hold this seat for the Democrats. As I have reported on other suburban and more rural Illinois Districts, there quite a few seats in play in this state. Kinzinger and Halvorson are likely to fight this one down to the wire.