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Hultgren, Roskam re-elected, in friendlier districts

Randy Hultgren

Randy Hultgren

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Updated: December 8, 2012 6:29AM

As the nationwide Republican leadership pushed to return to a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the party had its eyes, and its money, focused on some key congressional races where GOP incumbents are struggling to stay in office in the west Chicago suburbs.

The redesigned districts represented now by Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield Township, and Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, were not two of those, and both won re-election handily on Tuesday night.

The Democratic Party-controlled 2010 redistricting process created new Illinois congressional districts whose more “blue” populations threatened the re-election of Joe Walsh, Robert Dold and Judy Biggert. But in the new 14th District, first-term incumbent Hultgren apparently defeated challenger Dennis Anderson, a Gurnee Democrat. And in the redesigned 6th District, two-term incumbent Roskam beat off the challenge of Leslie Coolidge, a Barrington Hills Democrat.

The Associated Press projected at 8:08 p.m. that both Hultgren and Roskam would be re-elected.

Three hours later, with 91 percent of the 14th District’s precincts counted, Hultgren was leading with 166,134 votes (59 percent) to 114,277 votes (41 percent).

In the 6th District, with all but one precinct counted, Roskam was ahead 189,096 (60 percent) to 128,385 (40 percent).

Hultgren, speaking by phone at about 10:30 p.m. from the Election Night party of fellow GOP congresswoman Judy Biggert in Naperville, said it was a bittersweet victory because of the defeat of Biggert, Walsh and Dold. He blamed their defeat on how the Chicago-area districts were redrawn by the Democratic-controlled legislature.

“Basically, they just had really bad new districts,” Hultgren said. “The map won. The map was drawn for Democratic candidates and they won. It’s frustrating when a few leaders in Springfield decide who our representatives will be rather than having the voters decide.”

Hultgren and Roskam may have been helped Tuesday by the same redistricting process that helped defeat their three comrades. The redesigned 14th District looks little like it did when J. Dennis Hastert called it home and it covered most of the Fox Valley. It now includes all or part of seven counties — Kane, Kendall, DeKalb, DuPage, Will, McHenry and Lake. It stretches from Illinois’ northern border, south to Kendall County and Naperville.

Towns inside it include most or all of Hampshire, Huntley, Burlington, Marengo, Pingree Grove, Sycamore, Crystal Lake, Woodstock, McHenry, Harvard, Antioch, Yorkville, Sandwich, Oswego and large pieces of the Tri-Cities and Naperville.

What the 14th no longer does include is the more Democrat-oriented larger cities of Aurora and Elgin, which were turned over to other districts to threaten the re-election prospects of people like Walsh and Biggert. Democrats decided to sacrifice the 14th by leaving it mostly full of Republicans. Only half of the redesigned 14th had been in the old district.

In a second thrust, the Democratic map-drawers also put the homes of both Hultgren and Walsh within the new 14th, apparently hoping they would eat each other up in the March primary. But instead, Walsh decided to run again in the adjoining 8th District.

Hultgren praised Walsh for the self-sacrifice of running in the more Democratic 8th rather than going against Hultgren in the primary.

Hultgren has been involved in local politics since he was elected to the DuPage County Board in 1994. He served more than a decade in the Illinois General Assembly before beating Democrat Bill Foster in 2010. It was the same Bill Foster who Tuesday night got back into Congress by defeating Biggert.

The 46-year-old Hultgren will return to Congress as part of an outspoken congressional contingent that has stymied the president’s agenda. He has vowed to fight against the Affordable Health Care Act, though he supports allowing young people to stay on their parents’ insurance and favors protection for pre-existing conditions. Hultgren says government spending must be cut, but says the military budget is off limits. He also supports increased spending on science.

When asked before the election about how he has changed since 2010, Hultgren said he was sobered by the problems facing the country.

“I think I’m also a little wiser in knowing more how politics pervades everything,” he said. “That frustrates me and I want to see what I can do to start changing that.”

Anderson, of Gurnee, had never run for any political office. The retired medical researcher walked a lot of miles, talking to voters in “retail campaigning.”

Whipping up support

In the four short years since he was sent to Washington, Roskam, from Wheaton, has advanced into the Republican leadership until he is now the House’s chief deputy majority whip.

Surrounded on the north, west and south by the 14th, the redrawn 6th District itself looks like a pair of jaws, biting down on the Democratic areas that make up the western half of the new 8th. It includes parts of five counties — Kane, DuPage, Cook, Lake and McHenry. The towns inside it include all or parts of South Elgin, West Dundee, Sleepy Hollow, Gilberts, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills, Barrington, Cary, Fox River Grove, Bartlett, Wayne, the far west parts of Elgin and Carpentersville, and much of solidly Republican, heavily populated DuPage County, including half of Naperville, Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Lombard, Elmhurst, Downers Grove, Winfield and West Chicago.

Coolidge, a certified public accountant from Barrington Hills, faced two challengers in the March Democratic primary but drew as many votes as both of them put together.

Staff writer Matt Hanley contributed to this report.

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