Hastert's old district up for grabs

October 28, 2008 2:33:33 PM PDT
Voters in one west suburban congressional district are watching a campaign that likely seems very familiar. The candidates are the same. Their positions haven't changed. But the tone of the race certainly has. The 14th district includes Batavia, Aurora, Elgin and DeKalb. It extends almost to the Iowa border.

This is House Speaker Denny Hastert's old district. Once a Republican stronghold, it fell into the hands of a novice Democrat by the name of Bill Foster seven months ago. This is the election for a new full term. And it features a challenger who says in some ways he's a "new man."

It's a path Jim Oberweis has walked before. This is his fifth run for public office in six years, but Oberweis says he's a different man than the hard-charging negative campaigner.

"We said, 'Look, we're listening, we're going to be as positive as possible, focus on the issues,' and we've certainly done that," said Jim Oberweis, (R) 14th Congressional District candidate. "The question is will that work. Does it make a difference? To people really care about that or do they say it and then vote the other way?"

On the issues, Oberweis positions haven't changed from previous campaigns: He's against so-called "birthright citizenship," which allows illegal immigrants to stay if their children are born in the U.S. He wants English to be America's official language. Oberweis supports off-shore oil drilling, along with expanding nuclear power and alternative energy exploration. He supports personal health care savings accounts. And he thinks the federal bail-out was a big mistake ballooned by pork.

"This started as a three-page document, then went to 110 pages in Congress, then to the 451 pages of special-interest-laden legislation," said Oberweis.

"Our incoming mail and phone calls were sort of evenly split between 'no' and 'hell no,' and so it was a difficult vote when I voted 'yes' on this," said Rep. Bill Foster, (D) 14th Congressional District candidate.

Seven months into his career as a congressman, Bill Foster says without the bailout, a dry-up of loans to businesses would have lead to mass layoffs and closures. Foster says he's been able to save jobs by restoring $30 million in funding for Fermi Lab and Argonne.

In addition to voting for the bailout, Bill Foster supports more limited off-shore drilling. He says he's against laws that break up families mixed with legal and illegal immigrants. He supports basic levels of guaranteed health care coverage for all Americans.

But Foster says he does not blindly follow his party's platform.

"I voted against the Democratic budget six times in the seven months I was in office, and the reasons in mind it did not lock down middle-class tax cuts I campaigned on," said Foster.

While Bill Foster can claim independence on the budget, a Washington Post analysis found Foster voted with his Democratic party 95 percent of the time.


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