The race for Illinois' 14th Congressional District remains too close to call Wednesday, as incumbent Rep. Lauren Underwood, a Democrat, pushed to count the remaining votes while Republican challenger Jim Oberweis declared victory, though many outstanding mail ballots remain.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Oberweis said that “it appears” he has beaten Underwood in the race. His campaign says it made the declaration after consulting with county clerks throughout the 14th District.
“This race has been an uphill battle, to say the least,” he said. “Despite all of the money that she spent, we prevailed. I want to personally thank everyone who helped my campaign and who went out and voted for me.”
Underwood’s campaign disputed the Oberweis declaration of victory, saying that they remain confident that Underwood will be reelected for a second term.
“Jim Oberweis doesn’t get to call this election: the voters do,” Underwood spokeswoman Andra Belknap said. “There are thousands of votes yet to be counted. We appreciate every voter who made their voice heard, and our county clerks and election officials must count every ballot in as expeditious and transparent a manner as is possible. Based on publicly available data, we remain confident that once ballots are counted, this race will reflect that the voters have reelected Congresswoman Lauren Underwood.”
According to NBC News, Underwood is trailing Oberweis by 1,371 votes, with 89% of precincts reporting. NBC News has yet to make a projection in the race.
Illinois election officials said Tuesday they estimated somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 ballots remained unreturned by Election Day and could continue to arrive within the two-week window in which they can legally be counted. Thousands of those ballots were in the counties in which the 14th District is located.
Underwood is seeking a second term in Congress after unseating incumbent Randy Hultgren in the 2018 race. She ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, while Oberweis bested a field of seven Republican contenders to secure the party’s nomination in March.
Oberweis, a state senator from Illinois’ 25th District, has a long history of running for office in the state. He was a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2002 and 2004, and also ran for governor in 2006. He won the Republican nomination for the Senate seat in 2014, but was defeated by Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin.
The businessman has served in the state senate since 2013, and opted to run for a Congressional seat instead of standing for reelection this fall.