Incumbent Democrat Debbie Halvorson is fighting against her Tea Party-supported Republican opponent Adam Kinzinger to retain the seat she won by a 23.92 percent margin in 2008. Political analysts are split between categorizing the race in this normally Republican leaning district (Cook partisan voting index R+1) as a toss-up and Republican-leaning — with either scenario being troublesome for the incumbent and advantageous for the challenger.
Candidates for Illinois’ 11th Congressional District (two-year term)
(This district encompasses the western Chicago suburbs and sections of central Illinois. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Debbie Halvorson
Political experience: Halvorson is the incumbent Congress member, elected to represent the Illinois 11th District in 2008 for a two-year term. She serves on the Committees on Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and Small Business. She is a member of the New Democrat Coalition and co-chair of the Coalition of Women Legislators. According to Open Congress, one of 25 bills she sponsored and 10 of 229 she co-sponsored were enacted into law.
According to her U.S. House website, Halvorson served as Crete Township Clerk in Illinois beginning in 1993. She was elected to the state senate in 1997. Havlorson became the first female Illinois senate majority leader in 2005.
Professional experience: Before seeking public office, Halvorson sold cosmetics for Mary Kay for 14 years. She has also worked as a lecturer at Governors State University. Halvorson earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Governors State University.
Key issues: The economy, veterans affairs, health care and transportation are key issues in the Halvorson platform.
On the economy, Halverson was a supporter of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and an opponent of bank bailouts. She favors employee training for green jobs and policies that provide credit for small business.
Halvorson calls for investment in the existing transportation infrastructure, including rail and roadways, and she advocates funding for high-speed rail in Illinois. She is a proponent of the Iliana Expressway to connect I-55 and I-65.
Halvorson seeks to bring a veterans hospital to the district. She has voted to expand veterans’ medical care, eliminate co-pays for catastrophic care and provide advance funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs to reduce political influence in decision-making. She favors tax credits to employers hiring veterans.
On health care, Halverson voted for health care reform. She proposes to help address the health needs of senior citizens by closing the so-called Medicare Part D donut, which imposes the entire cost of prescription drugs on senior citizens from the time their drug costs surpass the coverage limit until they reach the catastrophic coverage threshold. Lowering drug prices for seniors is also among her priorities.
Endorsements: The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Emily’s List, Defenders of Wildlife and Planned Parenthood have endorsed Halvorson.
Chances of maintaining her seat: Although Halvorson took this seat with a landslide win in the 2008 election, her Republican Tea Party opponent is making strong inroads. Both Cook and CQ Politics categorize the Halvorson-Kinzinger contest as a toss-up, while Rothenberg Political Report and Real Clear Politics say the district is leaning Republican.
Election Projection predicts a Kinzinger win with a +8.5 margin of victory. The Election Projection analysis shows the change in political projections by various analysts during this campaign all trending toward a Republican win, with some analysts having recast their predictions from weak Democratic to toss-up and some from toss-up to weak Republican.
A We Ask America poll of 804 district voters shortly after the February primaries showed voters favoring Kinzinger to Halvorson 42 percent to 30 percent.
A misstep during the campaign — when Halvorson charged Kinzinger with lying about his military record based in part on his use of the present tense in a bio describing past work — backfired, creating a backlash against Halvorson for allegedly slinging mud at a dedicated military officer with the earmarks of an American hero. While the 11th C.D.’s veteran population of one per every 12 adult residents is lower than the 14 percent national average, the anger aroused by Halvorson’s accusation could influence the voting outcome.
Candidate: Adam Kinzinger
Political experience: Kinzinger won his first political race in 1998 when he unseated an incumbent member of the McClean County Board. He was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2002, but he resigned in 2003.
Professional experience: Kinzinger worked for STL Technology Partners after graduating from college in 2000.
In 2003, Kinzinger joined the United States Air Force as second lieutenant and progressed to the rank of captain.
He received his bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University.
Key issues: Issues addressed in Kinzinger’s platform include the economy, Social Security, health care and military action.
Kinzinger offers a five-point plan to revive the economy. His plan includes the federal government demonstrating a commitment to small-business growth, extending the 2001 and 2003 tax relief that is set to expire in 2011, new federal business tax incentives, strict limitations on new federal spending and aggressive pursuit of alternate energy development opportunities. Kinzinger also advocates a complete rewrite of the Internal Revenue Code.
On Social Security, Kinzinger opposes privatization, payroll tax boosts and retirement age increases.
Kinzinger opposes the federal health care plan. But his proposals mirror portions of it, including portability, purchasing pools and a ban on coverage denials based on pre-existing conditions. He would support full deductibility of premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. Kinzinger is an advocate of tort reform.
On national security, Kinzinger believes that once the military has been activated, civilian leadership should defer to military leaders on issues relating to military action. He opposes a firm timetable for troop withdrawal in Afghanistan. He supports increased pressure on NATO allies to participate in the Afghanistan War and on Afghan leaders on political issues. In Iraq, Kinzinger would like to see the U.S. maintain a military training and combat support role. With respect to the nuclear threat in Iran, Kinzinger proposes economic sanctions, funding of Iranian government opposition groups and potential military strikes.
Endorsements: Kinzinger received endorsements from the Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Sarah Palin and Vets for Freedom.
Chances of unseating Debbie Halvorson: Kinzinger has the advantage of an R+1 rated district, nationwide voter discontent with the status quo and the support of the Tea Party behind him. The race is too close to call, according to both Cook’s Political Reports and CQ Politics. But other political analysts give Kinzinger a slight edge. We Ask America polling in February gave Kinzinger a solid lead, but a lack of independent polling since then makes it difficult to draw a conclusion about which lever voters are currently inclined to pull on election day.
Key differences between Debbie Halvorson and Adam Kinzinger:
Economy: Both candidates advocate the development of green-energy jobs and both focus on small business as a key component of the economic recovery. Halvorson voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and credits it with bringing new jobs to the district.. Kinzinger’s website does not take a position on that legislation, but it indicates he is opposed to new spending other than for critical national security and infrastructure needs. He focuses largely on tax policy to address the economy.
Social Security: Both candidates oppose privatization of Social Security. Kinzinger also opposes raising the retirement age or increasing Social Security taxes. Halvorson’s platform contains several proposals related to Medicare, including closing the donut hole and reducing the costs of prescription drugs.
Health care: Halvorson voted for the national health care reform bill. Her platform calls for implementing and strengthening this health care legislation. Kinzinger opposes the national health care reform law primarily for fiscal reasons. He would advocate certain health care reforms contained in the law including portability and coverage denials based on pre-existing conditions. Kinzinger is an advocate of tort reform. Halvorson would place special emphasis on the needs of seniors, particularly with respect to the cost of prescription drugs and veterans .
Transportation: Halvorson wants to invest in the existing transportation infrastructure, build high speed rail and fund the Iliana Expressway. Transportation is not among the key issues addressed on Kinzinger’s website.
National Security: Kinzinger supports the continuation of the war in Afghanistan and opposes a firm timetable for troop withdrawal. He advocates a continued military presence in Iraq, to provide training and combat support to Iraqi troops. With respect to Iran, Kinzinger favors economic sanctions, funding of government opposition groups, and ultimately military strikes if other measures are unsuccessful.
Halvorson’s website does not contain a position statement on national security. According to Project Vote Smart, she opposed HR 4899, legislation which would have pulled military funding from Afghanistan for any purpose other than troop withdrawal. She voted yes on the military appropriations bill, HR 2647.
Demographics: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois’ unemployment rate is 10.3 percent (July 2010). While some parts of the 11th Congressional District are experiencing unemployment rates lower than the state average, others such as Kankakee-Bradley face an unemployment rate well above their neighbors with 13.5 percent of the workforce out of work.
According to U.S. Census data, the Illinois 11th is home to 653,647 residents, with 73.2 percent of the population voting age. The district’s population holding a bachelor’s or higher degree is lower than the national average, 18.5 percent compared to 24.4 percent.
Only 4.2 percent of the 11th district population is foreign born. Eighty-seven percent of the district residents describe their race as white only while 7.8 percent represent themselves as black only. 6.7 percent of residents of all races in the Illinois 11th congressional district identify themselves as Latino.
The median family income of 11th congressional district residents exceeds the U.S. median and the number of people living below the poverty level is significantly less than the national average.