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After winning big, Bill Foster prepares for return to Congress

Bill Foster speaks supporters after being elected U.S. Congress Tuesday November 6 2012. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

Bill Foster speaks to supporters after being elected to the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 10, 2012 6:25AM



It wasn’t just pollsters who were surprised by the results of the 11th Congressional District race between U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert and former U.S. Rep. Bill Foster.

Even Foster’s camp was startled that he won with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

“Personally, we’re trying to understand the margin of victory,” Foster said, one day after besting Biggert.

Foster said all internal and external polls showed a dead heat against the longtime congresswoman. Foster expected to win in Kane County, Will County and Aurora.

But when the first returns showed him well ahead in traditionally Republican counties such as Kendall and DuPage, Foster realized the race would not go late into the night.

Biggert declined interviews Wednesday, after her first political loss at the state or federal level. Tuesday evening, she seemed relieved that at least the campaign — if not her political career — was over. Foster described Biggert’s concession call as “very gracious.”

How did Foster win big? He speculated some of the vote may have been influenced by DuPage being a high-tech corridor, where his background as a Fermilab physicist was appealing. And the polling might not have accounted for how many voters actually showed up, sort of an enthusiasm gap.

On Wednesday, Foster was sipping ginger tea at his Naperville home, trying to get his voice back to full strength after an election night that returned him to Congress after a two-year hiatus.

Foster won a special election for U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s seat in March 2008, then the general election in the 14th Congressional District eight months later. In 2010, he was one of several Democrats swept out of the office, losing a close race to Randy Hultgren.

After leaving office, Foster worked for the Bulletin for Atomic Scientists and prepared to run again for Congress in the new 11th District, which includes nearly all of Aurora, Naperville, Oswego, Montgomery and Joliet.

Foster said he chuckled when he got an e-mail Wednesday morning inviting him to the orientation activities for freshman congressmen. It felt a bit like being the kid who was held back a grade, he said.

Foster will return to the House in the minority party, but he’s optimistic that compromise is possible.

“It’s going to depend on the leadership in the Republican Party. Their avowed strategy for the last two years was to try to stop President Obama from being a two-term president,” Foster said. “If their only strategy is a continuation of obstruction, then they’re going to find the voters are not very satisfied with that.”

Foster, 57, said his top priority after being sworn in will be to restore U.S. manufacturing. Foster said there is no magic bullet, but a hundred little things that can be done.

“You have to look at every piece of legislation and see it through a lens of: Will this be good for U.S. manufacturing or not?” he said. “That’s one of the many lenses you look through.”

Price per vote? Foster’s cost half of Biggert’s

Seeing an opportunity to influence the balance of power in Washington, D.C., through Illinois, outside groups plowed $43 million into the top six U.S. House races in the Land of Lincoln on top of individual campaign spending.

In the 11th District race, each vote cost Foster less than half the amount per vote spent by Biggert.

The Sun-Times added the amount SuperPACs spent on a candidate to the amount the candidate reported spending from his or her personal campaign fund in the latest disclosure available. Those mid-October reports do not reflect the money each candidate spent in the crucial final weeks of the campaign.

Out of the 18 costliest House races in the country, six of them were contests in Illinois.

Foster won with the biggest margin, according to vote tallies, with 58 percent of the vote.

It cost about $30 per vote for Foster, given the $4.3 million spent by or on his behalf and the 139,849 votes cast for him.

Spending on Biggert’s side exceeded $6.3 million. Ending up with 101,002 ballots cast for her, it averages out to $62 a vote.

Contributing: Natasha Korecki



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