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Durbin, NEA endorsements highlight 11th District’s national importance

Bill Foster

Bill Foster

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Cunningham is back on the ballot in 11th District GOP primary. PAGE 7

Updated: March 23, 2012 8:09AM

The 11th Congressional District race between Judy Biggert and Bill Foster has started early, even before Foster or Biggert has won their party’s nomination.

With 11 months until the election — and with both candidates facing primary challenges — Biggert and Foster have already gathered significant endorsements, campaign cash and even a few attack ads.

All of this early action frames the 11th District, which covers most of Aurora, Naperville and Joliet, as one of the nation’s most watched races. In the last campaign filings, both candidates had raised nearly a million dollars.

On Tuesday, longtime Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin endorsed Foster in the Democratic primary, saying Foster was a voice of moderation who could bring sanity to a divided Congress.

“He brings the scientific method to his analysis of political issues,” Durbin said. “A lot of us are political scientists. Bill is a real scientist.”

Foster has been highlighting that during his three years in the House of Representatives he was one of the most centrist candidates, unafraid to go against his party if he felt strongly about his analysis. Durbin said he would sometimes call Foster to encourage him to support a Democrat’s bill, only to find that Foster had detailed reasons for making a no vote.

“At the end of the day, whether I agree with him or not, he had a thoughtful analysis that I respected,” Durbin said.

Durbin said Foster got a reputation as an “honest broker” in politics.

Foster is facing Orland Park Fire Protection District President Jim Hickey and former Aurora Township Clerk Juan Thomas in the March 20 Democratic primary.

Foster said Tuesday he was pleased to earn Durbin’s support.

“It’s something he does not do for every candidate, and it’s an honor,” Foster said.

Durbin said he chose to make his endorsement early on after he saw some of the larger political action committees already lining up to oppose Foster. Earlier this month, The New Prosperity Foundation — run by former gubernatorial candidate Ron Gidwitz — released an ad criticizing Foster as anti-business.

Meanwhile, Biggert — who is facing Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham in the Republican primary —- was recently endorsed by the National Education Association’s political action committee.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said Biggert “shares so many of NEA’s priorities for education.”

“As a former school board member, she brings to Congress a commitment to students, the right vision for public education and the right values to make the tough choices on behalf of working and middle class families in Illinois and across the nation,” Van Roekel said.

All this early attention means that if Foster and Biggert do emerge as the nominees, Fox Valley voters can expect full mailboxes and a significant amount of attention this year.

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