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2760Democrat wins Hastert's seat in Illinois

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  • Greg Cannon
    Mar 9, 2008
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080309/ap_on_el_ho/congress_hastert_s_seat

      Democrat wins Hastert's seat in Illinois

      By DEANNA BELLANDI, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 19
      minutes ago

      CHICAGO - Nearly two years after taking control of
      Congress, the Democrats have claimed another prize by
      capturing former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert's
      seat — a development that Republicans say is not a
      harbinger of things to come.

      The longtime Republican district fell to the Democrats
      Saturday when wealthy scientist and businessman Bill
      Foster snatched the seat in a closely watched special
      election.

      While Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
      Chairman Chris Van Hollen predicted Foster's win would
      send out a "political shock wave," Republicans were
      quick to downplay its significance.

      "The one thing 2008 has shown is that one election in
      one state does not prove a trend," National Republican
      Congressional Committee spokeswoman Karen Hanretty
      said in a statement.

      Republicans had been hoping to hold on to the district
      that President Bush easily carried in 2004 with 55
      percent of the vote. The district runs from Chicago's
      far western suburbs to almost the Mississippi River.

      Foster defeated wealthy Republican businessman Jim
      Oberweis by capturing 53 percent of the nearly 100,000
      votes cast in the election.

      "Tonight our voices are echoing across the country and
      Washington will hear us loud and clear, it's time for
      a change," Foster told cheering supporters.

      Van Hollen said Foster's win is a rebuke of the Bush
      administration and the GOP's apparent presidential
      nominee, John McCain, who helped raise money for
      Oberweis.

      "The message to Republican candidates is that John
      McCain's not going to be able to save you in this
      election," said Van Hollen, a Maryland congressman.

      Foster's special election win means he will fill the
      remainder of Hastert's term, which ends next January.
      The 66-year-old Hastert, who lost his powerful post as
      speaker when Democrats took control of Congress,
      resigned late last year.

      Foster, 52, worked for 22 years at the Fermi National
      Accelerator Laboratory. As a young man, he and his
      brother started a company that manufactures theater
      lighting equipment.

      The race between Foster and Oberweis spawned a
      contentious campaign that saw both men counting on
      high-profile supporters to sway voters. Oberweis had
      Hastert and McCain; Foster leaned on Democratic
      presidential candidate Barack Obama who endorsed him
      in a TV ad.

      "The people of Illinois have sent an unmistakable
      message that they're tired of business-as-usual in
      Washington," Obama said Saturday night in a written
      statement.

      Oberweis, whose name is synonymous with his family's
      dairy business and his financial management company,
      gets another shot at the seat when he squares off
      again with Foster in November for a new, full term in
      the 14th Congressional District.

      "I'm really disappointed that we came up second but
      that's where we're at," Oberweis said.

      This is the latest election disappointment for
      Oberweis who has lost primary races twice before for
      the U.S. Senate and once for Illinois governor.

      With Foster headed to Washington, the district will
      have a rookie congressmen after years of enjoying
      Hastert's clout. During his two decades in Congress,
      Hastert funneled millions of dollars to the district.
      He was the longest-serving Republican speaker in
      history.

      Hastert's is one of three open seats in Illinois this
      year because of GOP retirements. Reps. Jerry Weller
      and Ray LaHood are also stepping down. The Democratic
      Party's chances to pick up one of those seats improved
      when the Republican nominee to replace Weller dropped
      out of the race.

      Besides attacking each other in negative TV ads,
      Foster and Oberweis clashed on issues ranging from
      immigration and health care to the Iraq war.

      During a recent TV appearance, Foster said he would be
      a "good vote in Congress to change President Bush's
      policy" on Iraq. Oberweis contended the troop surge
      there was working.