Republican Darlene Senger Could Upset Democratic Incumbent in IL-11

In Illinois’ 11th Congressional District, the Republican Party is looking to regain a seat in the Chicago area that may be difficult, but possible.

Representing the 41st state House district, the GOP is hanging its hopes on Darlene Senger. The 11th Congressional District extends from Senger’s native Naperville before stretching west to Aurora, narrowing and heading south through Bolingbrook, and finally ending in Joliet.

After winning March’s primary, Senger embarked on a 10-day “Jobs and Business Tour” throughout the district. Touting her endorsement from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Senger said during the tour, “Right now, we are among the highest in taxes and highest in unemployment. We need to change things in DC so that we can change things here, where it counts.”

Senger is also a recipient of the Naperville Chamber of Commerce’s Champion of Free Enterprise Award.

At the close of the recent legislative session in Springfield, Senger voted against 77 spending bills the Democrats put together, which she said were designed to “cobble together the state budget”:

“The dozens of spending bills the majority party approved Thursday amounts to at least $37.3 billion in total spending – a staggering $2.8 billion MORE than the number we agreed to in March. By voting on all this extra spending but NOT voting on what the revenue will be to pay it, Democrats are virtually guaranteeing that the ‘temporary’ income tax increase will be made permanent.”

The U.S. House seat is currently held by Democrat Bill Foster. In a career that has seen the one-time physicist in and out of government, Foster first ran in the 14th district when Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert resigned in 2007. In 2008, Foster won both a special election and a full term. Foster lost in 2010 to State Senator Randy Hultgren in an election that brought Republicans back to power in the House of Representatives.

Following the redistricting that resulted from the 2010 U.S. Census and Illinois Democrats’ victory in that year’s elections, Foster made a comeback in the newly-drawn 11th district. He defeated U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert of the 13th district, 58-42.

Countering Senger’s record on business and free enterprise, Foster’s website lauds his support for lowering business taxes:

“After-tax business profits have surpassed their pre-crisis peak, after-tax profits are now the highest in history, and businesses are once again creating jobs.”

Fundraising may also become an issue for how competitive the race becomes. As of late March, Foster had $1.1 million on hand compared to Senger’s nearly $41,000. Senger had to win a 3-person primary whereas Foster was unopposed.

In a sign that the party believes the race is contestable, the National Republican Congressional Committee lists Senger as a “contenders” in its “Young Guns” program. Acknowledging the fundraising disparity, Senger told the Chicago Sun-Times, “Right now, my focus is entirely on fundraising.”

The seat may be difficult for Republicans to claim, but it is not impossible. Foster won a favorable Democratic seat in 2012 with 58 percent. However, he has been caught in a Republican electoral wave before and could prove vulnerable again if support for Congress and its incumbent members continues to drop.

Photo Credit: Sun-Times Media