The race for Illinois' new 11th Congressional District pits Democrat Bill Foster against Republican Judy Biggert. While on paper the district looks heavily Democratic, polls show the candidates running neck-and-neck.
Bill Foster won Illinois’ 14th Congressional seat in March 2008 in a special election held after the resignation of longtime incumbent and former House Speaker Republican Denny Hastert. He won a full term later that year in the regular election. He lost his seat in 2010 to Republican Randy Hultgren. The new 11th includes the city of Aurora, which was a stronghold of support for Foster in the old 14th.
Judy Biggert has represented Illinois’ 13th Congressional District since 1999, after serving 3 terms in the Illinois House. After the area of the old 13th was split among several new districts, Biggert opted to run in the 11th, which also includes Naperville. The city was part of the old 13th and considered strong for Biggert.
Neither campaign could find time for their candidate to meet with WNIJ. But both have gone on the record on a number of issues. And while both are considered moderates within their own parties, there are some distinct differences.
Foster says he favors handling the federal budget and deficit problems through a plan modeled on the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Commission report, with cuts in spending and tax increases both in the mix. Foster supports the president’s call to end the so-called Bush tax cuts on those making over 250, 000 dollars a year.
Biggert says some revenue increases probably are necessary to cope with the deficit. But Biggert, who has signed conservative activist Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge, says that does not include raising income taxes on anyone, least of all those she calls “job-creators.” In Congress, she voted for a version of Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget plan that included significant cuts in spending as well as further tax cuts.
Both candidates say they want to increase jobs, and have produced videos on their websites that outline their positions. Foster has specifically called for increasing manufacturing jobs, which he says are necessary for a healthy economy. In his video, speaking over music, Foster listed how he wants to do that.
“First, to extend the lead in the productivity of our workforce. We have the most productive workforce in the world, and that will only continue if that workforce continues to be the best educated in the world. A second thing is we have to make sure that we have a level playing field. That one of the worst mistakes that were made was allowing China to come in to the, the trading picture internationally without having agreements with them that they stop the abusive practices that allow them to compete unfairly on the world stage.”
Biggert says it’s the private sector -not government- that creates jobs, but says Washington has to reduce the uncertainty she says is standing in the way of small business growth. On her website, she described some of her ideas.
“First, Washington has to get out of the way. We have to cut the red tape and eliminate the unnecessary regulations and mandates that are strangling businesses. We can reduce the tax burden on our job creators, and simplify the tax code so businesses can stay competitive and begin hiring again. And finally, we can restore private sector confidence in our economy by paying down our debt and forcing Washington to live within its means.”
On abortion, both candidates say they are pro-choice. Biggert has voted to restrict federal funding for the practice, and to restrict late-term abortions. But she’s also broken with her party to vote against a number of bills that imposed additional restrictions or criminal penalties.
When it comes to gay marriage, Foster says he is for marriage equality, period. Biggert says she has long favored civil unions, but is not quite ready to endorse gay marriage. In any case, she says, marriage is a matter that should be left to the states.
One of the biggest issues the candidates see as being important to the district, the state and the nation is healthcare. Their positions offer a sharp contrast on the subject.
With regard to the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, Foster says he was proud to vote for it, and while additional improvements are needed, believes it is already improving the lives of many people. Biggert says it should be repealed and replaced, although she says some provisions in it should be kept. Biggert also favors tort reform to limit medical malpractice suits and the purchase of insurance across state lines.
Foster says Medicare should remain basically as it is, with some reforms to keep it solvent. He says some savings can come from moving away from a straight fee-for–service model to one based on patient outcomes. Biggert has endorsed Paul Ryan’s plan that would replace Medicare as it presently exists with what is essentially a voucher system of patient subsidies. Biggert says the plan offers flexibility and cost savings. Foster says it will leave seniors paying thousands more out of their own pocket.
Both candidates tout their experience running businesses, as well as their work in Congress. And they both say they are willing to cross the aisle to find bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems.