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  Democrat Bill Foster wins special election to replace Dennis Hastert
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Last Editedev  Mar 08, 2008 09:16pm
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MediaNewspaper - Chicago Sun-Times
News DateSunday, March 9, 2008 03:00:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionDemocrat Bill Foster wins special election to replace Dennis Hastert

March 8, 2008

Democrat maintained a solid lead Saturday in a special election to fill former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's seat in a contest closely watched because of the possibility the longtime GOP district could change hands.

Democrat Bill Foster had a 53 percent to 47 percent lead over Republican businessman Jim Oberweis with 534 of 568 precincts reporting.

The race between Foster and Oberweis spawned a contentious campaign that saw both men turn to high-profile supporters to help sway voters in the reliably GOP district.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama made a TV ad praising Foster; Oberweis had fundraising help from the apparent Republican nominee, John McCain, and Hastert's backing.

The winner Saturday will fill the remainder of Hastert's term, which ends in January. The 66-year-old Hastert, who lost his powerful post as speaker when Democrats took control of Congress, resigned late last year.

Another election for the seat will be held in November for a new, full term. Oberweis is the GOP candidate in that race and Foster won a close Democratic primary by less than 400 votes, although one challenger is initiating a recount.

No matter who wins the seat, the district will have a rookie congressmen after years of enjoying Hastert's clout. During his 21 years in Washington, Hastert funneled millions of dollars to the district that stretches from Chicago's far western suburbs to almost the Mississippi River.

Hastert's is one of three open seats in Illinois this year because of GOP retirements.

Reps. Jerry Weller, who represents a district from the suburban sprawl south of Chicago to the farmland of central Illinois, and Ray LaHood of Peoria are also stepping down. Democrats' chances to pick up one of those seats improved when the Republican nominee to replace Weller dropped out of the race.

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