Illinois’ 14th U.S. House District comprises a fast-growing area west of Chicago, including Aurora and Kendall County. The Illinois 14th is a traditionally Republican enclave. The incumbent Bill Foster is a Democrat, running for his second full term, having been elected in both a special election to replace Dennis Hastert in 2008 and the follow-up general election that year. His opponent is Republican Randy Hultgren, a state senator.
The projections in the contest for the Illinois 14th District seat have bounced back and forth between weak leads by each candidate. The current predictions favor Republican challenger Hultgren over Foster, according to Election Projection. A We Ask America poll on Aug. 4 shows Hultgren likely to take the race with 44 percent to Foster’s 37 percent. Real Clear Politics classifies the Foster-Hultgren race as a toss up. Cook Political Report likewise calls the Foster-Hultgren race a Democratic toss-up in a district it rates R+1.
When it comes to funding, Foster has an advantage, having accumulated $2.2 million to Hultgren’s $778,000 as of mid September, according to OpenSecrets.org. At that time, Foster had six times the amount of unspent campaign funds as his opponent; however, he also has $901,000 of campaign debt from his earlier campaigns.
Candidate: Bill Foster
Political experience: Foster is the incumbent, representing the Illinois 14th congressional district in Congress for a second two-year term. He serves on the House Financial Services and Oversight and Government Reform committees.
Professional experience: Before entering politics, Foster worked for Fermilab for 22 years where he engaged in scientific research helping to discover the top quark and designing and building particle accelerators. He was awarded the Rossi Prize for Cosmic Ray Physics for discovering the neutrino burst from supernova SN1987a and the Particle Accelerator Technology Prize from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. He started Electronic Theatre Controls, Inc. with his brother at 19, leaving the company when he went to work at Fermilab. Foster earned his bachelor’s degree at University of Wisconsin-Madison and his PhD from Harvard.
Key issues: On his website, Foster has identified financial responsibility, health care, and energy as critical issues facing the Illinois 14th district.
With respect to financial responsibility, Foster believes that paying down the debt the nation incurred during the Bush administration is the first order of business, according to his website, and that deficit reduction takes precedence over other domestic priorities.
On health care, Foster’s website suggests that it’s time for 50 million uninsured Americans to have access to affordable health care; he doesn’t take into account the health care reform legislation passed by the 111th Congress that extended health care coverage to 31 million uninsured Americans. Foster voted “aye” on health care reform when it came up for vote in March, according to the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Foster advocates influencing energy research by redirecting government incentives, ensuring a skilled workforce with scientific knowledge through training and issuance of work permits, and using incentives to encourage Americans to adopt energy conservation policies that will pay for themselves. Foster is among the scientists who believe global warming is real and at least half attributable to human activities.
Endorsements: Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood endorsed Bill Foster.
Chances of maintaining his seat: Foster has the advantage of being the incumbent, but the only recent poll (We Ask America, Aug. 4) shows him trailing his Republican opponent by seven percentage points. The district traditionally votes Republican, another hurdle for Foster to overcome. Political analysts’ projections on this race have continually bounced between the candidates with neither taking more than a weak lead since the February primary. Thus, the race is characterized as a toss-up.
Candidate: Randall Hultgren
Political experience: Hultgren has served as a state senator since 2007. From 1999 to 2007, he was a member of the Illinois house of representatives. He was elected to the DuPage County Board and Forest Preserve Board in 1994.
Professional experience: Hultgren is vice president of Performance Trust Investment Advisors. Hultgren earned a bachelor’s degree from Bethel University and law degree from Chicago Kent College of Law.
Key issues: Hultgren has identified tax reform, government spending, health reform and job creation as top issues in his campaign.
On taxes, he believes the Internal Revenue Code is too complicated, noting that it’s longer than War and Peace and compliance costs are estimated at $200 billion. Hultgren’s three-point tax initiative would require enactment of simpler rules, faster filing procedures and lower rates.
Hultgren assails both parties in Congress on government spending, calling for a stop to out-of-control spending and fiscal conservation efforts. Hultgren stops short of calling for a balanced budget.
When it comes to health reform, Hultgren favors price transparency, free market offerings and tort reform.
Endorsements: National Federation of Independent Business, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Industry PAC have endorsed Randall Hultgren as has Illinois Federation for Right to Life.
Chances of winning the seat: Hultgren took the lead in the only recent polling, with a seven-point advantage. The Aug. 4 polling, however, comes during a race in which candidate support has vacillated continually, never giving either candidate a strong or consistent lead. The race is characterized as a toss-up.
Key differences between Bill Foster and Randall Hultgren:
Financial responsibility: Both parties take aim at government spending, labeling it out of control. Foster would treat deficit reduction as a priority over other domestic spending. Hultgren focuses on both reducing spending and finding savings, but he would not go so far as to require a balanced budget.
Health care: Foster voted for health care reform. Any further work needed on the health care issue is not specified on his website. Hultgren favors free market health care with price transparency. He advocates tort reform as a means of addressing the cost of health care.
Energy: Foster favors incentives and policies ensuring a skilled workforce. Hultgren contends that the optimal way to assure energy efficiency is through improving investment opportunities for new technology and green-energy production.
Taxes: Hultgren wants to simplify the tax code and reduce taxes. Foster has not make taxes a centerpiece of his campaign. However, the first piece of legislation Foster penned was a homeowner tax cut, according to Project Vote Smart.
Demographics: The Illinois 14th congressional district population is 654,000 with 83.4 percent describing themselves as solely white, 4.7 percent as solely black, 1.8 percent Asian and 7.9 percent some other race. The percentage of residents of all races describing themselves as Latino is 18.5, one and one-half times the national average. 12.7 percent are foreign born. One-fifth speak a language other than English at home.
The percent of the district residents active in the labor force, as of the 2006-2008 Community Survey period, is 69.7. This district has about half as many families below the poverty level as the nation as a whole.
The state unemployment rate is 10.3 percent (July 2010) according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Layoffs were up in the state as a whole in July compared to prior months, as were unemployment claims.