New Members of Congress from Illinois

2012 was a wave Democratic year. There were quite a few surprise Democratic winners across the country, including in Illinois. Illinois had the distinction of being a bright spot for the Democrats in 2010, in an otherwise Republican wave year. They held on to the Illinois legislature and the governor’s mansion, and so controlled the redistricting process in Illinois.

Last Tuesday, Democrats won four seats from the Republicans, and held on to one competitive seat near St. Louis, while Republicans held one competitive seat. Here are the new members:

Tammy Duckworth – 8th Congressional District (Republican to Democrat) – The 8th congressional race was probably the most publicized of the races. Incumbent Rep. Joe Walsh was a controversial Republican member of Congress who was closely associated with the Tea Party. Walsh had originally decided to run in the 14th district, challenging Randy Hultgren for the seat, but later decided to run in the 8th district to avoid a member-on-member primary fight. Duckworth, who had run for Congress in 2006, and had lost to Peter Roskam, had been appointed the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, and after President Obama won his first term in 2008, was appointed the Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. She also has a list of “firsts” for Congress: first Asian-American elected in Illinois; first disabled woman elected to Congress (she lost her legs when a rocket-propelled grenade hit her helicopter in Iraq in 2004); first member of Congress born in Thailand. She won the race by a convincing 55-45%. She will be 44 years old when she takes office.

Brad Schneider – 10th Congressional District (Republican to Democrat) – Schneider ran in another competitive district. Bob Dold, the incumbent congressman, had defeated Democrat Dan Seals in 2010 to replace Mark Kirk, who won the U.S. Senate race in Illinois that year. The National Journal ranked Dold as one of the most vulnerable incumbents in 2012. Despite being endorsed by the Chicago Tribune and the Daily Herald, Dold fell to the Democratic wave. Brad Schneider is a management consultant who ran his own consulting firm, Cadence Consulting Group, until he decided to run for Congress. His lack of income from his business was an issue in the campaign. He won the district by a very slim 2,500 votes. He will be 51 years old when he takes office.

Bill Foster – 11th Congressional District (Republican to Democrat) – Foster was in the unique position of running for his old job. He was elected to Congress in 2008 to represent the 14th congressional district after Dennis Hastert resigned from Congress (after losing his speakership). Foster was unseated in 2010 by Randy Hultgren in a hard-fought race. In the 2010 redistricting, Hultgren’s district was made substantially more Republican, so Foster decided to run in the new 11th district, a competitive (but Democratic-leaning) district. He ran against Rep. Judy Biggert, a 7-term incumbent whose district was eliminated in the redistricting. Biggert faltered in the debates, allowing Foster to take the advantage. Foster is a physicist who worked at Fermilab for 22 years, and was on the team of scientists that won the 1989 Bruno Rossi Prize for cosmic ray physics. He won the district 58-42%. He will be 57 years old when he takes office (again).

Bill Enyart – 12th Congressional District (Democrat to Democrat) – the 12th district in Illinois became a competitive district when representative Jerry Costello (D) decided to retire rather than run for re-election. Enyart did not run in the primary election, but was selected as the Democratic nominee after the primary winner, Brad Harriman, dropped out of the race due to illness. Enyart was selected by a 13-member committee to replace Harriman. He ran against Jason Plummer, who was the 2010 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. Enyart was a member of the U.S. Air Force before joining the Illinois Army National Guard, and was appointed to lead the National Guard in 2007 by Governor Blagojevich. He has promised to work to fix the flaws with the Affordable Care Act when he gets to Congress. He won 52% of the votes in the race. He will be 63 years old when he takes office.

Rodney Davis – 13th Congressional District (Republican to Republican) – Davis was one bright light for the Republicans in a day full of sadness. Davis ran to succeed Congressman Tim Johnson, who had held the seat for 12 years. Johnson ran in the primary race, and had a near-certain chance of re-election. But, after he won the primary election, he announced that he would retire from his seat in Congress. Rodney Davis was selected to replace Johnson on the ballot by a 14-member committee made up of Republican County Chairmen. Davis was the campaign manager for Rep. John Shimkus’ first re-election campaign, and then joined the congressman’s staff. Davis won the race by a slim 1,287 votes. He will be 43 years old when he takes office.

Cheri Bustos – 17th Congressional District (Republican to Democrat) – A former reporter and editor for the Quad-City Times and former alderman on the city council of East Moline, Cheri Bustos ran in a three-way race to challenge incumbent congressman Bobby Schilling, a pizzeria owner from Moline, Illinois. She defeated Freeport mayor George Gaulrapp and Augustana College executive Greg Aguilar in the primary, and then waged a fierce general election race against Schilling, defeating him 53-47%. From her policy positions, she seems like a run-of-the-mill Democrat: she strongly supports the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), opposes extending the Bush tax cuts for the top tax brackets, supports the DREAM Act, supports a contraceptive mandate, and opposes free trade acts (calling them in one debate “NAFTA-like”). However, she supports a 10% pay cut for all members of Congress until the federal budget is passed. She will be 51 years old when she takes office.

So, Democrats gained 4 seats in the House of Representatives in 2012. The Illinois House delegation now has 12 Democratic members and 6 Republican members, a shift from the 11-8 majority the Republicans had in the last Congress.

These new members of Congress join the other members of the Illinois congressional delegation:

1st Congressional District – Bobby Rush (D)
2nd Congressional District – Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D)
3rd Congressional District – Dan Lipinski (D)
4th Congressional District – Luis Gutierrez (D)
5th Congressional District – Mike Quigley (D)
6th Congressional District – Peter Roskam (R)
7th Congressional District – Danny Davis (D)
9th Congressional District – Jan Schakowsky (D)
14th Congressional District – Randy Hultgren (R)
15th Congressional District – John Shimkus (R)
16th Congressional District- Adam Kinzinger (R)
18th Congressional District – Aaron Schock (R)