Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign off on new congressional district maps that will dramatically reshape the western suburbs. And one of the new districts already has its first candidate, a familiar name to local voters.
Democrat Bill Foster, former U.S. congressman in the 14th District, announced Tuesday that he will run in the newly configured 11th District, which includes much of Montgomery, Aurora, Naperville, Woodridge, Bolingbrook and Joliet.
Foster, 55, lives in Batavia, which would remain in the 14th District under the new maps. But congressional candidates don’t need to live in the district they would represent. Foster served two terms as congressman for the 14th, winning both a special and general election in 2008 to succeed former House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
Foster was the first Democrat to represent the 14th since the Watergate era.
Last year, however, he lost a close election to Randy Hultgren, the Winfield Republican who currently represents the 14th. In a phone conversation Tuesday, Foster attributed the election results to “frustration with the slow recovery of the economy,” but said he now sees “buyer’s remorse” among voters.
The newly drawn maps may give him an opportunity to jump back in the game.
The congressional district maps, approved by the Illinois House on Monday and the Illinois Senate on Tuesday, recast the 14th District as a massive swath of land that includes Geneva, Batavia, St. Charles, Oswego and Plainfield, among others, and stretches to the northern border of the state.
Hultgren currently shares residency in this district with fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, who represents the 8th District.
The new 11th District, on the other hand, has no incumbent currently living within its boundaries—it is represented by Adam Kinzinger—and includes many of the areas previously grouped into the 14th, including Aurora, where Foster enjoyed strong support.
Montgomery will be split between the two districts—the boundaries of the 11th stretch to Orchard Road, and everything west of Orchard and north of Route 30 is in the 14th.
Foster said he is happy with the way the lines were drawn, mentioning that the 11th also nudges right up to the twin technology jewels of the suburbs: the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratoryin Batavia, where Foster worked for more than 20 years, and Argonne National Laboratoryin Darien.
Republicans, however, have blasted the new maps, which were drawn by Democrats without GOP involvement. Redistricting occurs every 10 years, coinciding with the U.S. census, and the idea is to even out representation among cities, villages and ethnic groups.
But with Democrats in charge of the state House and Senate, Republicans were not needed to pass the new boundaries.
Republicans have accused Democrats of drawing the maps to benefit their own party, and to erase the results of the 2010 election. The congressional map passed both houses of the legislature essentially along party lines: 63-54 in the House, and 34-25 in the Senate.
The National Republican Congressional Committee also took aim at Foster in a written statement released Tuesday morning.
“Illinois working families fired Bill Foster last fall because of his unwavering support for reckless spending, higher taxes and bigger government,” wrote NRCC spokesman Andrea Bozek. “Illinois voters understand that Bill Foster’s tax-and-spend record was part of the problem and are unwilling to foot the bill again for his big-spending agenda.”
Foster is the first candidate to announce in the new 11th District. In fact, he didn’t even wait until the new district maps were approved to throw his hat into the ring.
“I think it’s good to start the campaign as fast as possible,” he said. “I look forward to introducing myself [to voters], and meeting with old friends in [the] Aurora, Oswego and Montgomery areas.”
See the new congressional district maps here.