Democrat Lauren Underwood won the race for Illinois' 14th Congressional District Tuesday night, the Associated Press projected, defeating incumbent GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren in a stunning victory.
Underwood won 52 percent of the vote with 79 percent of precincts reporting by 10 p.m., compared to Hultgren’s 48 percent of the vote.
The race was competitive across the suburban battleground. Containing parts of DuPage, Kane and Will counties, the district has long been a Republican stronghold - represented from 1987 to 2007 by Dennis Hastert, the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the House who served a prison sentence in connection with a hush money scheme to hide his history of sexually abusing young boys.
Hultgren has represented the district since the Tea Party wave of 2010, but in a Democratic year, he was unable to hold on for a fifth term against a challenge from newcomer Underwood.
Underwood is a nurse and health policy expert who worked on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act under former President Barack Obama, who endorsed her in the race.
She has a heart condition and has centered her message on health care, often saying that she decided to run against Hultgren after he voted for a bill that she says did not include protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
Hultgren, who served in the Illinois House and Senate prior to running for Congress, contends that the bill he voted for - the American Health Care Act, which passed the House but narrowly failed in the Senate - did not remove the requirement that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions. Like other Congressional Republicans, his message focused more on the economy, touting low unemployment and the GOP tax reform bill.
President Donald Trump won the district in 2016 by 3 points - his slimmest margin of victory in all of Illinois' Congressional districts that he carried. That left an opening for Underwood to gain some ground, and in October, Cook Political Report moved its prediction for the race from "lean Republican" to "toss up.”
Underwood also had a slight cash advantage in the final stretch - outraising Hultgren for the past three quarters, according to FEC filings.
Underwood will now be both the first woman and the first African-American to represent the 14th District.