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After first loss, Biggert to leave office, but not public service

Congresswoman Judy Biggert. Monday October 8 2012 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

Congresswoman Judy Biggert. Monday, October 8, 2012 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 8, 2012 10:39PM



In late 1991, a few people invited Judy Biggert over to their house on the pretense of watching a Bears game. When she arrived, the Hinsdale School Board member discovered their ulterior motive: they wanted her to run for the state legislature.

“I said I would — if they would all help me for as long as I was in office,” she recalled Thursday. “They didn’t expect it would be this long.”

Biggert won that election and 19 more — a perfect electoral streak that ended with a thud on Tuesday night. After all polling indicated she was in a neck-and-neck race with former Congressman Bill Foster, Biggert lost by a wide margin, getting beat in nearly every county that touched the redesigned 11th Congressional District.

“I think they really got their vote out,” she said. “Ultimately, I think it was the map. It was such a gamble for us, but I thought it was important.”

The new congressional district was mapped out by Democrats, and Biggert’s longtime 13th District was sliced into six parts. The Hinsdale Republican decided to run in the 11th, which covers nearly all of Aurora, Joliet and Naperville. The resulting campaign turned into a multi-million-dollar battle between the two heavyweights. In the end, Biggert believes the district was drawn to favor a Democrat and it did.

In a few hours Tuesday, Biggert went from shaking every hand she could, to figuring out how to pack up and move.

“It was painful, but we always knew the district was a lot different than the wonderful 13th that I had the honor serving in. But I met a lot of new people,” she said.

Biggert, 75, said she does not picture running again for any elected office. She was relieved the campaign was over — thankful she wouldn’t have to see her face on a TV commercial for a while. She has nine grandchildren living all over the world that she’d like to visit more often.

She’s also considering returning to her law career. More likely she’ll throw her energy into one of the dozens of civic organizations or causes she has supported for years.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunities to work on issues that I care about, so I’ll probably jump back into it,” she said.

She leaves Congress with a reputation as a moderate who built consensus around issues she was passionate about. She highlighted a flooding bill she recently championed, which passed 406-22 during a time when few major efforts were getting bipartisan support.

She also recalled her first bill, which came out of Aurora’s Hesed House. It allowed children with no address to still go to school.

“I think my legacy is that I had the respect of members of both sides of the aisle,” she said.

She’s hopeful a bit of that compromise is still possible in a divided Congress.

“I hope that he (President Obama) will communicate with all of Congress and sit down and solve the problems,” she said.

She still has to return to Washington, D.C., for a few final votes. On Thursday, she reflected on 1999, the first time she stood in the front of the House of Representatives.

“I thought: this is so fantastic. I was so humbled by it,” she said.

“It’s really been an honor and privilege to represent the district. And I do look forward to the future.”



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