Two suburban Democrats on Tuesday night rode the “blue wave” expected to take control of the GOP-led U.S House, winning traditionally Republican congressional districts held by veteran incumbents, including one backed by President Donald Trump.
Political newbie Lauren Underwood beat Trump-backed Randy Hultgren, 52 percent to 48 percent, with 98 percent of the precincts counted, becoming the first woman and first African-American to represent the 14th District. Meanwhile, Sean Casten unseated six-term Rep. Peter Roskam in the 6th District, 53 percent to 47 percent, with 99 percent of the precincts reporting.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump had tweeted out his “Total Endorsement” in urging the Illinois electorate to vote for Hultgren, who’s held his congressional seat since 2011. The Republican president had also praised Hultgren a few weeks ago at a rally in Murphysboro after Hultgren drove 300 miles to be there. At the rally, Trump also backed Downstate GOP Reps. Rodney Davis and Mike Bost.
Bost kept his job, beating Democratic challenger Brendan Kelly in the 12th District in southeastern Illinois, by 10 percentage points. Davis was leading Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan 51 percent to 49 percent, with 97 percent of precincts reporting in the 13th District in central Illinois.
The 6th District, which Casten won, has been redistricted since it was the stronghold of powerful Republican Henry Hyde. It now spans parts of Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane and McHenry counties.
The 14th District, which Underwood won, was once home to now disgraced former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert. It encompasses parts of seven counties in the far western suburbs — DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will.
Underwood took the stage at the Kane County Fairgrounds where the mood, cautiously optimistic as she maintained a lead all evening, turned ebullient as she thanked her supporters.
“You lifted me up, and this victory is your victory” a beaming Underwood said. “It’s your example that I’ll follow in Congress. I aim to be the very best congresswoman this area has ever seen, and honestly, it won’t be that difficult, because I’ll be the first congresswoman this area has ever seen.”
The nurse, who’s set to join the 116th Congress in January, acknowledged the role healthcare played in voters’ decisions.
“In the United States of America, we the people come together to make our community, our country, a better place,” she said. “And tonight, we the people, have stood up to say that healthcare is a human right.”
John W. Anderson of Aurora said he and his neighbors backed Underwood out of concern the Republicans would gut key protections in the Affordable Care Act.
“I know too many people who never had health care,” he said of the days before Obamacare. “Now I’m worried that they’ll lose it — either because their premiums are too high and rising, or because it’ll be gone.”
Hultgren did not return multiple calls for comment.
Casten told his cheering crowd that he “didn’t run for this office because I wanted to win an election.
“I ran because there’s stuff that needs to be fixed.”
But 19-year-old Roskam backer Tyrie Mehaffy wasn’t buying it.
“I don’t feel represented at all. I feel like Roskam so aligns with my beliefs, and Sean is not at all that,” she said.
Elsewhere around the Chicago metro area, incumbents saw clear victories.
In the northwest suburban 8th District, Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi won a second term, beating Republican businessman Jitendra “JD” Diganvker 65 percent to 35 percent, with 93 percent of precincts reporting.
Longtime Chicago Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky was projected to easily defeat John Elleson, keeping the 9th District Democratic, 73 percent to 27 percent, with 92 percent of precincts counted.
Fellow Democrat Brad Schneider was declared the winner in the north suburban 10th District, beating historian and mathematician Douglas R. Bennett 65 percent to 35 percent, with 98 percent of precincts reporting.
Democrat Bill Foster defeated Dr. Nick Stella, 64 percent to 36 percent, in the 11th District, with 99 percent of precincts counted.
And In the 16th District, four-time incumbent Republican Adam Kinzinger beat immigration attorney Sara Dady, 59 percent to 41 percent, with 96 percent of precincts reporting.