A day after political newcomers Lauren Underwood and Sean Casten flipped two congressional districts in the Chicago suburbs and helped Democrats take over the U.S. House, the duo contended their victories in areas long held by Republicans weren’t a one-year anomaly.
“I think that our race proves that what people had previously written off can’t be written off anymore,” said Underwood, who upset Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren of Plano in the far west and north 14th Congressional District.
Casten said his victory over Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton showed the suburban 6th Congressional District anchored in DuPage County doesn’t like what it is seeing from President Donald Trump — or acquiescing Republicans.
“I don’t think that the values of the district changed as much as the Republican Party has changed,” Casten said. “The fact that this district went for Hillary (Clinton) in 2016 but was really solidly Republican down the ballot says to me that this district is not aligned with the values of Trump, but is aligned with the values of the Republican Party from 20 years ago. That’s not wildly different from my own views, frankly.”
Both Democrats appeared at their campaign offices Wednesday afternoon after late election victory parties. The Roskam and Hultgren campaigns declined requests for interviews.
Underwood’s victory has rocketed the 32-year-old registered nurse into the national spotlight, part of a wave of women and first-time candidates who swept into Congress during this midterm election.
“Why do I think the women won? Women are superheroes,” Underwood said, and volunteers erupted into applause. “Women across the country have seen that there’s a way to step forward and lead and there are millions ready to support them. And now we’re finding that there is that electoral success and so now we can work together to make changes.”
Underwood said that women have found success in the election because they are speaking to the issues such as universal background checks for gun sales, paid family leave and affordable child care. She said she’ll continue her campaign focus on health care once she takes office. She attacked Hultgren’s vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which she said would have weakened protections for people like herself with pre-existing conditions. Hultgren responded by repeatedly saying Underwood didn’t read or didn’t understand the bill.
The Naperville native and former Department of Health and Human Services staffer during President Barack Obama’s administration also becomes the first black woman to represent Illinois’ 14th District, a collection of suburbs, farms and small towns that is 87 percent white.
Underwood, who thanked volunteers Wednesday afternoon at her campaign headquarters in St. Charles, credited a robust grassroots effort and well-coordinated ground game for putting the district into the win column for Democrats. It was an effort that gathered steam over months and months of meetings, trips to doorsteps and outreach efforts that gave her campaign a “presence” that engaged in the community in a way that had not been seen from Democratic candidates in the area during past elections, she said.
The district was last represented by a Democrat when U.S. Rep. Bill Foster won the seat in 2008. He lost his 2010 re-election bid to Hultgren and now represents a district that includes Aurora, Naperville and Joliet.
Underwood received about 52 percent of the vote to 48 percent for the incumbent, according to unofficial vote tallies. Next door, Casten received 53 percent of the vote to Roskam’s 47 percent, according to unofficial election results.
Trump loomed large in both races, and on Wednesday he gave a live televised speech listing Republican candidates across the country who lost after keeping their distance from the president during the campaign.
“Peter Roskam didn’t want the embrace,” Trump said.
The president, however, did not mention Hultgren’s loss. Nearly two weeks before the campaign, Hultgren traveled more than 300 miles south to a southern Illinois Trump rally to get a mention and brief appearance onstage.
Casten said he missed the president’s remarks on Wednesday because, for the first time in months, he slept in. But when reporters informed him of Trump’s comments, Casten was not shy about saying he plans to oppose the president when he takes office in January.
“Congress is a coequal branch. It has an obligation to act as a check and balance. If the president doesn’t like that, that’s unfortunate.”
When asked if he plans to press for the president’s tax returns or if he supports the possibility of issuing subpoenas in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Casten said “absolutely.”
“Large numbers of Americans think we have a financially conflicted president,” Casten said. “If we don’t get to the bottom of it — sunlight remains the best disinfectant — and if we’re not going to shine sunlight on that, we’re putting at risk the fabric of our democracy.”
Asked if he planned to support Nancy Pelosi to be House speaker, Casten was non-committal. He said he planned to wait to see if anyone else was going for it and then weigh his options.
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November 7, 2018 at 08:18PM