State Sen. Randy Hultgren (left) is challenging Democrat Bill Foster (right) in Illinois' 14th Congressional District.
Scientist Bill Foster is not a prototype Congressman. Admittedly a bit wonky, Foster, a Democrat, won a special election in 2008 to replace retiring U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R).
When November 2008 rolled around, Foster rode the Obama wave to a full term.
Now he is being challenged by State Senator Randy Hultgren, who dispatched Hastert’s son, Ethan, in the February primary.
The race pits a centrist, Foster, 55, against the conservative Hultgren, 44, who says both parties are to blame for problems in Washington.
The 14th congressional district covers over 100 cities in the northern part of Illinois, ranging from Elgin to Aurora to just a stone's throw away of the Iowa border. It is urban and agrarian, rich and poor.
In Congress, Foster voted for the Obama Health Care plan, though he calls it far from perfect.
Hultgren opposes it, as well as the Obama economic stimulus package, saying it did little for the 14th District.
"The best-case scenario is, around 600 jobs or a little bit less were either saved or created from that." Hultgren said. "$400 million spent on the 14th Congressional District."
But Foster said there was no other choice but to support the stimulus.
"This economy lost eight million jobs and $17.5 trillion dollars of wealth,” he said. “It was an emergency.”
Foster has broken ranks with the Obama administration, voting against two budgets and key legislation like Cap and Trade.
“I got a call all the way up the command chain, eventually got a call from good Rahm (Emanuel). Then you get a call from the President, then you get a call from bad Rahm,” he said during an interview at his Batavia campaign office. "They said, 'Here are eight reasons you should vote for it.' I said, 'Well here are 14 reasons I should vote against it.'"
“Whether it is Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama or Harry Reid, I think there is a strong disconnect with the 14th Congressional District,” said Hultgren, who served in the Illinois House from 1999 to 2007. His Illinois State Senate seat is not up for election this year.
But Foster maintains he has played it straight down the middle during his two years in Congress, citing an article in The National Journal.
"I got listed actually as the second most centrist member of Congress," he said. "Which means my right ear and my left ear are going deaf at the same rate from people yelling at it."
Last week Foster appeared at a fundraiser alongside First Lady Michelle Obama and holds a big advantage in campaign money.
But the 14th is historically a republican district, as Foster was the first democrat to win here since 1937.
Like three other Congressional races (10th, 11th and 17th), this race is considered a toss up.