Congressman Bill Foster, the wonky physicist from Naperville, and his ex-wife Ann, a software design engineer, are hardly TMZ material. But they had an unusual request.
Could we talk about their divorce?
That divorce was almost two decades ago.
And this is not an election year. Bill Foster, a 59-year-old Democrat, just won his third term by a wide margin in November.
So why now?
Because Foster has begun weighing a run for U.S. Sen Mark Kirk’s seat in 2016. But even if he doesn’t, his next re-election race is always around the corner.
“Ever since Bill decided to go into politics,” said 63-year-old Ann Foster, “every single campaign season since 2008, there are a number of months when I am plagued by constant phone calls. Sometimes in the middle of the night. Dozens of them.”
Those callers, mostly reporters, ask about her 1996 divorce filing in which she requested he move out of the marital residence because “the Defendant has pushed, shoved, and caused physical abuse and emotional harm of the Plaintiff, thereby putting her in fear for not only herself but also for the parties (sic) minor children.’
Ann Foster’s signature is at the bottom.
That document, every election season, has been fodder for opposition blogs and anonymous robo calls asking voters if they knew Bill Foster was a “wife-abuser.”
Though Mrs. Foster’s divorce attorney Friday told me he remembers little about the case, he said he always makes sure clients know what they sign.
Mrs. Foster said she did not read it before signing and told the judge the allegation was absolutely not true, that there was never abuse of any kind. The judge apparently agreed because he allowed Bill Foster to remain in the house.
“Why does this have to be so adversarial?” they recall asking each other.
Court documents show the Fosters moved to a mediator from their lawyers. “We got a wonderful mediator,” he said. They worked out a settlement, joint custody, and a financial incentive so Mrs. Foster could afford to remain in the same suburb as her ex-husband. Though the judge asked if that didn’t hold her “hostage,” another word used in anti-Foster advertising, Ann Foster said it was an idea she fully endorsed as a then-single working mother whose salary was less than her ex-husband’s.
The Fosters lived within four blocks of each other until their kids were grown.
“A divorce,” Ann Foster said choking up a bit, “is an end to dreams. But since that time we are like old friends.”
Sitting side by side, they looked like old friends.
At Foster’s swearing-in ceremony in D.C. in 2008, Ann stood beside the congressman’s wife, Aesook.
So why, I asked, reopen this discussion? Won’t it just give oxygen to allegations you decry?
“We’ve been talking about doing this for years,” said Bill Foster.
“Maybe we just need to get this on the record,” added Ann Foster who has also remarried. “So I can now say, I already told my story. Don’t bother me anymore.”