One big opportunity for a Republican pickup in November is Illinois District 14. The western suburban Chicago and rural northern Illinois District, which includes the birthplace of Ronald Reagan, has been controlled by Democrat Bill Foster since a special election in the spring, 2008. Prior to that election, Republicans have generally represented the district.
Republican challenger and Illinois State Senator Randy Hultgren has already survived a competitive primary against Ethan Hastert — son of former Speaker and District Representative Denny Hastert. Running on his experience in the Illinois legislature, Hultgren was able to win 55 percent of the vote in the February 2nd Republican Primary. Now Hultgren is competing solely against Foster. “My Congressman was not doing anything to stand up for the district, but was instead being a voice and a vote for Nancy Pelosi,” Hultgren told TAS when asked why he decided to run.
Hultgren is running as a conservative, and has already gained support from numerous conservative organizations. He boasts endorsements from the American Conservative Union, Concerned Women for American, Illinois Citizens for Life, and the National Rifle Association. Hultgren identifies as pro-life, pro-small business, and said he supports the added troop levels in Afghanistan.
Hultgren has also pledged not to raise taxes while in Congress, although his record in the Illinois Senate is not completely free of voting for tax increases. Last May, Hultgren voted in favor of funding an infrastructure project through taxation of alcohol, candy, and soft drinks. Hultgren justified the vote saying that Illinois roads and bridges badly needed repair, and said that it was the Democrats who proposed funding the projects through taxation. The Illinois Senate is Democrat-controlled. Out of the Republican Senators, twelve voted for the bill with the tax, while ten opposed. Hultgren told TAS that he would vote against all so-called “sin taxes” while in Congress. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has said that it plans to make Hultgren’s vote an issue in the coming months.
Hultgren’s opponent, Bill Foster, voted for the Stimulus bill and the House Health Care bill, yet voted “no” on Cap and Trade. Hultgren emphasized that he would have voted no on all three bills.
If the GOP is to take back the House this election cycle, this race is one it probably needs to win. The District is rated R+1 by Cook PVI, yet Foster won 58 percent of the vote in 2008. He’ll enjoy the advantages of incumbency, and the former physicist can probably still deflect the “Washington Insider” label. A potential factor that could favor Hultgren’s chances is that Dan Kairis of the Green party has also expressed intentions of running in the race. With Fermilab inside the district, and some liberal voters in the suburban areas, a significant group of left wingers could vote Green in anger towards Foster’s “No” vote on Cap and Trade.