Democrat wins Hastert's seat in Illinois
By DEANNA BELLANDI, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 19
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
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
"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
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
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
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.