Jim Oberweis, Lauren Underwood outcome in limbo; Oberweis starts recount fundraising

Republican Jim Oberweis declared himself the winner as Democrat Lauren Underwood’s campaign said thousands of ballots for the House seat still have to be counted.

SHARE Jim Oberweis, Lauren Underwood outcome in limbo; Oberweis starts recount fundraising

Jim Oberweis, Republican candidate for Illinois Congressional District 14, speaks at his election night gathering at Hampton Inn & Suites in Aurora, Ill., Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

John Starks/Daily Herald via AP

WASHINGTON — The battle between Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood and GOP state Sen. Jim Oberweis for a Chicago area congressional seat remained unresolved on Wednesday, with ballots still to be counted and Oberweis launching a fundraising drive to help bankroll a recount.

The Associated Press still has not called the race for the 14th District, where Underwood is seeking a second term in a district sweeping in seven suburban and rural counties surrounding Chicago.

The latest developments:

STATUS CHECK:Oberweis on Wednesday declared himself the winner, based on incomplete returns giving him an 895-vote lead over Underwood.

He said in a Facebook video, “After contacting every County Clerk across the 14th District, I am pleased to say that, with only a handful of outstanding ballots, it appears that I have won a tough fought campaign against Lauren Underwood.”

In reply, Underwood’s campaign spokeswoman, Andra Belknap, said in a statement, “Oberweis doesn’t get to call this election: the voters do. There are thousands of votes that have yet to be counted.

“We appreciate every voter who made their voice heard, and our county clerks and election officials must count every ballot in as expeditious and transparent a manner as is possible.

“Based on publicly available data, we remain confident that once ballots are counted, this race will reflect that the voters have reelected Congresswoman Lauren Underwood.”

It’s hard to project the outcome of this contest because so many ballots remain to be counted. That includes ballots deposited in drop boxes Tuesday, mail ballots already delivered and mail ballots arriving by the 5 p.m. Nov. 17 deadline.


Rep. Lauren Underwood, R-Ill., talks to reporters in St. Charles, Ill., on election night, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Nam Y. Huh/AP photo

Lake County Democrats Chair Lauren Beth Gash said in an interview there are “thousands” of ballots just in the Lake County portion of the district that still have to be counted.

As to the Oberweis claim that only a “handful” of ballots are out, Gash said, “We have a different viewpoint of what the meaning of a handful is.”

Gash added, It is “absurd” and “literally impossible for him to know the outcome of this race before all of the vote by mail, drop box and provisional ballots have been counted.”

OBERWEIS LEGAL FUND: On Wednesday, the Oberweis campaign said in an e-mail fundraising appeal, “We’re launching a RECOUNT FUND immediately today, to defend against any and all Democratic attempts to undermine the integrity of this election.”

By creating a separate fund, the Oberweis campaign is able to get around federal campaign donation caps. An individual who gave the $2,800 maximum contribution to the Oberweis general election campaign can write another check to this separate fund.

Oberweis spokesman Travis Akin said, ”We believe our lead will hold. The recount fund is simply a precaution to prepare for the possibility of recounts and litigation.” The Oberweis House bid was viable because he put $1.7 million of his own money into his campaign.

TRUMP FACTOR: The Underwood campaign is gauging that the mail ballots will overwhelmingly favor them.

The Oberweis team believes that Oberweis got a Tuesday jolt in turning out in-person votes as a result of President Donald Trump coming out strong for Oberweis in the closing days of the campaign.

Trump endorsed Oberweis in an e-mail, did a tele-rally for him and Oberweis was in Kenosha to appear at a rally with Trump on Monday. Kenosha County borders on Illinois 14.

REP. CHERI BUSTOS: House Democrats still hold the majority, but Tuesday was a big disappointment — expected gains in seats never materialized and unanticipated defeats occurred.

That does not bode well for Rep. Cheri Bustos, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — the House political operation. Bustos had an unexpectedly strong challenge to her downstate 17th Congressional District seat — deep in Illinois Trump Country — from Republican Esther Joy King. Being the DCCC chair made her a tempting target.

Bustos sent out a statement on Wednesday declaring she won a fifth term. . On Thursday, the Associated Press called the race for Bustos.

Next up: Watch to see if Bustos seeks another term as DCCC chair.

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