That’s the lowest level of approval in nearly 40 years — and with those odds, it’s amazing to think that some former lawmakers want to go back to Washington.
But Bill Foster wants back in — and that’s why The 5 in 5 Project is ending its five-day tour in the Illinois 11th Congressional District. Foster is a “scientist and businessman,” as his campaign likes to say, but he’s also a former one-term lawmaker who won a House seat in 2008 and then lost in 2010 to Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.). (He currently represents Illinois’ 14th Congressional District encompassing Dixon, where we visited earlier this week.)
Foster is challenging Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) in one of three marquee races that Democrats hope to win in order to inch closer to retaking the House majority. As colleague Paul Kane wrote earlier this year, Foster’s 11th district is part of an aggressive effort by Illinois Democrats to net as many as five seats with the new lines.
Outside groups are likely to be a major factor in this and the other Chicago-area seats in play. Among other organizations, a new Republican pro-gay rights group, American Unity, announced Thursday that it plans to endorse Biggert and run ads in the district. She supports the Defense of Marriage Act, but voted to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don't tell” ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly. The group is led by New York hedge fund executive Paul Singer.
Foster, who has blasted the super PAC spending in support of Biggert, is being assisted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which targeted Biggert and 49 other GOP candidates this week with robo-calls noting her support for the budget proposal written by Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
As with other close contests, the campaign has turned nasty and is rooted in partisan differences. Notably, Foster had a Rick Perry-like moment last week during a debate hosted by the Chicago Tribune editorial board.
Foster said he had identified three parts of the federal budget to cut — military aircraft spending, crop insurance subsidies and, much like the Texas governor’s famous flub during a GOP presidential debate last year, he said: “What was the third one I mentioned? I’ll go back to it. I’m just having a …”
Asked again 10 minutes later, Foster said he hadn’t remembered the third cut because “he had been too busy writing things down to look it up,” according to the Tribune.
Biggert and Foster also exchanged barbs during the debate over which party is more to blame for the partisan gridlock in Washington.
Foster called Biggert a reliable “party-line” vote during George W. Bush’s administration.
“Judy’s policies, everything that she voted for during the Bush years, systematically eviscerated U.S. manufacturing and the middle class,” Foster said, according to the Tribune.
Biggert replied that “Democrats have never talked about anything that you’re going to do. It’s always what we did wrong and what’s wrong with what we’re going to do.”
Observers anticipate a close race, but a lack of recent reliable independent polling makes it difficult to determine who is ahead. In the money race, Biggert has a slight edge. By the end of June, the seven-term lawmaker had raised $1.7 million and maintained about $1.5 million in her campaign account. Foster had raised $1.6 million for his campaign and maintained a roughly $1.27 million balance in his campaign coffers.
Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately reported Biggert’s stance on same-sex marriage. It has been corrected.
Make sure to read highlights from Monday and Tuesday in Iowa and Wednesday and Thursday in Illinois and track today's developments at washingtonpost.com/5in5. Also follow Ed on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.