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Foster takes Hastert's seat
Oberweis to meet Democrat again in November election
By Susan Sarkauskas | Daily Herald Staff

Bill Foster at Long Island Sound in Aurora Saturday .


Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

Republican Jim Oberweis talks to reporters Saturday night in St. Charles after conceding to Democrat Bill Foster in the special election for the 14th Congressional District seat vacated by Dennis Hastert.


Mary Beth Nolan | Staff Photographer

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Published: 3/9/2008 12:21 AM | Updated: 3/9/2008 12:28 PM

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A Democrat is taking over the 14th Congressional District seat long held by Republican Dennis Hastert.

In a rare special election Saturday, Democrat Bill Foster of Geneva was elected to fill the remaining 10 months of Hastert's seat.

Foster defeated Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove, 52,010 to 46,988, according to unofficial totals.

"Back in the lab, this is what we would say is a pretty successful experiment," Foster, a former Fermilab scientist, told his supporters at a banquet hall in Aurora.

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"Tonight our voices are echoing across the country and Washington will hear us loud and clear. It's time for a change," Foster said.

Oberweis, addressing supporters and media in St. Charles, said when he called Foster to concede, he "encouraged him to remember our hopes of lower taxes rather than higher taxes.

"I'm really disappointed that we came up second but that's where we're at," said Oberweis, who had Hastert's backing in the race.

Voters were wooed intensely for a month following the Feb. 5 special primary.

Still, voter turnout was only 22 percent of the 396,754 registered.

And Foster, Oberweis and the voters get to do it all again in November, as the two men face each other for a full 2-year term.

The 14th Congressional District is in parts of seven counties, and stretches from Carpentersville south and west to the Mississippi River.

Hastert held the seat for 21 years. From January 1999 to the end of 2006 he was speaker of the House.

Both Foster and Oberweis spent large chunks of their own money on the special election. Oberweis, as of Feb. 25, had loaned his campaign $2.3 million. Foster lent his campaign $1.3 million.

National party committees threw support behind the candidates, bringing in campaign staff and advertising.

The county clerks have to turn in the results by April 5 to the Illinois State Board of Elections. The ISBE has to canvass them by April 12.

Oberweis campaigned as a fiscal and social conservative. He called for a voluntary program of allowing workers to privately invest some of their Social Security contributions in exchange for delaying receipt of their full retirement benefit for seven years past normal retirement age.

Oberweis criticized Foster for being endorsed by abortion-rights supporting groups, such as Planned Parenthood of Illinois. He also said that, because Foster did not support extending all of the 2001 and 2003 federal tax cuts which are due to expire in 2010, Foster was in effect willing to raise taxes thousands of dollars per person.

Foster criticized Oberweis' stance on illegal immigration.

He also filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission about Oberweis' campaign finances. He charged that Oberweis failed to notify him and the national Democratic Party that he was loaning his campaign more than $350,000 within 48 hours of doing so, as required by a law known as the "Millionaires Amendment." The law is intended to allow an opposing candidate to access more campaign resources in response.

Foster played up his scientist background, promising to use logic to approach problems. He also campaigned as an agent for change, including having Sen. Barack Obama cut a television ad for him.

Sen. John McCain made an appearance in Sugar Grove on behalf of Oberweis.

Oberweis ran unsuccessfully, in 2002 and 2004, for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, and in 2006 for the GOP nomination for governor.