Monday, March 10, 2008

IL-14: Success! Democrats win Hastert's seat!

Remember Dennis Hastert? He lost the Speaker of the House to Nancy Pelosi when Democrats took back the House in 2006. Well, without his precious Speakership, he decided to take his ball and go home, and soon resigned from Congress. Nevermind that the people in his district re-elected him to serve a two-year term. And so, there was a special election on Saturday for his seat. So what happened?

Physicist Bill Foster, the Democrat, won! He beat back Republican ice cream magnate Jim Oberweis, 53%-47%.

Bill Foster  (D): 53% (52,010)
Jim Oberweis (R): 47% (46,988)

The House Democrats' chief fundraiser said the victory in today’s special election for the Illinois seat vacated by Republican former Speaker Dennis Hastert is only the beginning of the hurt his party is going to lay on the GOP this fall.

“Despite spending 20 percent of ... their cash on hand, the [National Republican Congressional Committee] was unable to hold a seat easily won by President Bush and held by Speaker Hastert for 20 years,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen crowed. “Americans of all political stripes are rejecting Republicans’ divisive, status quo politics and turning to Democratic candidates for change.”

Democrat Bill Foster, a physicist running his first campaign, scored a 52-48 upset over Republican Jim Oberweis, a dairy owner who was expected to hold Illinois’ 14th Congressional District for the GOP. Foster won even in Kendall County, Hastert’s home base, reliably Republican – until now.

The NRCC took exception to Van Hollen’s analysis.

“The one thing 2008 has shown is that one election in one state does not prove a trend,” spokeswoman Karen Hanretty said. “In fact, there has been no national trend this entire election season. The presidential election is evidence of that. The Democratic candidates are trading election victories from week to week and the nomination could hinge on a few news cycles. The one message coming out of 2008 so far is that what happens today is not a bellwether of what happens this fall.”

Van Hollen said Foster’s victory “sends a political shock wave across America this election year.”

“It is a stunning rejection of the Bush Administration, its Republican allies, and presidential nominee John McCain,” the Maryland Democrat said. “Republican candidates learned tonight that Senator McCain, who campaigned with the Republican nominee, cannot save them from defeat this November against strong Democratic challengers, even in districts that voted overwhelmingly for President Bush.”

The GOP is trying to spin this away as simply being an Illinois thing, nevermind that this is a "red" district that gave Bush 55% of the vote in 2004, and Hastert still got 60% of the vote in 2006 even with the Mark Foley scandal hanging over his head. And the NRCC had tried to pull out all the stops in retaining the seat, spending about 29% of their entire cash on hand in this race. This is the first special election in four years where the party affiliation has changed, since Democrats won two special elections in Kentucky (Ben Chandler) and South Dakota (Stephanie Herseth Sandlin).

And yes, Obama played a key role here, cutting a commercial for Foster, while McCain campaigned with Oberweis. It was seen as a proxy fight between the two camps. Hillary Clinton, for whatever reason, did not even bother to endorse Foster in this race. And guess what? By becoming a Congressman, Foster will also be certified as a superdelegate, and yes, he's supporting Obama. This race can be seen as the first sign of Obama's coattails in a downticket race. Remember, unless we get to 60 Democratic votes in the Senate, expect to see 41 or more Republican Senators filibuster just about every good piece of legislation with a Democratic President.

Now, Foster has said he'd caucus with the Blue Dogs, so he's not exactly an out-and-out progressive. But given the makeup of his district, that may not be a bad thing. And on some key issues where the Blue Dogs have stabbed us in the back and sided with Bush, Foster doesn't seem to be making the same mistake, coming out strongly against telecom immunity.

Oh, and John Laesch, who ran against Hastert in 2006, and narrowly lost the Democratic primary to Foster this time around, has withdrawn his recount petition (there were some irregularities) for the sake of the party. Good on him. Look for his name in the future.

1 comment:

Brandon Harrison said...

I can rest easy now.