14th congressional district election approaches

March 7, 2008 3:46:01 PM PST
Saturday is the special election in the 14th congressional district.Voters will pick someone to finish the remaining term of retiring House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

It has been a very bitter contest between Republican Jim Oberweis and Democrat Bill Foster.

No matter who wins, we know they won't go to D.C. with Denny Hastert's clout. But much has changed in the district that extends from the Fox Valley west in the decades since Hastert went to Washington. The Democrats believe they have a real chance, and that helps explain why each candidate is spending nearly a half-a-million dollars a week on their air-war alone.

It's non-stop negativity. And neither candidate can claim clean hands in this fight.

"It's the same mudslinging we've always seen from Jim Oberweis," said Foster.

"I learned in grade school if a bully came and hit me the first time or the second time that's OK. But the third time, I'm going to fight back," said Oberweis.

Oberweis has earned a reputation for tough tactics in his repeated runs for public office in Illinois, and this race is no exception. But now the man Oberweis and Foster are competing to replace, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, is getting his hands dirty, slamming Foster in a radio interview Thursday morning.

"He's had some personal problems in his life. He's not as squeaky clean as everyone thought he was," Hastert told WLS-AM.

Insiders say the "personal problems" Hastert referred to are veiled reference to Foster's messy divorce a dozen years ago. But voters in the Fox Valley want to know where the men stand on the issues.

"It's probably the immigration issue," said one.

"Definitely jobs, the economy, things are just really out of control right now," said another.

Foster supports an immediate end to the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. On immigration, he advocates a tamper-proof worker I.D. card.

Oberweis says the surge is working. On immigration he's against amnesty and citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants born in this country.

Northern Illinois University is in the congressional district the two men want to represent. Oberweis said he supports concealed carry laws but isn't sure about that on college campuses. Foster said he supports gun ownership but would give law enforcement a big say.

"I will go to the sheriffs and ask them. It's always the details. There's a lot of wisdom in the sheriffs in our district," said Foster.

This will be the first Illinois election held on a Saturday in at least a quarter-century. As a result, at least 20,000 voters may have to cast ballots at alternate polling places because of weekend closures.

Voters will get to do it all again this November when they'll decide who gets to serve the full term.