March 9, 2008 / 3:46 AM / 12 years ago

Democrats take high-profile Republican district

Bill Foster in an undated photo. A Democrat captured on Saturday an Illinois House of Representatives seat that had been a Republican stronghold, in a symbolic blow to President Bush's party ahead of November elections. Returns showed physicist and businessman Foster beating dairy owner Jim Oberweis by 52 percent to 48 percent of the vote in the district that had been held by former House Speaker Dennis Hastert for more than two decades. REUTERS/Handout

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A Democrat captured on Saturday an Illinois U.S. House of Representatives seat that had been a Republican stronghold, in a symbolic blow to President George W. Bush’s party ahead of November elections.

Returns showed physicist and businessman Bill Foster beating dairy owner Jim Oberweis by 52 percent to 48 percent of the vote in the district that had been held by former House Speaker Dennis Hastert for more than two decades.

Democrats already control both houses of the Congress with a 30-seat edge in the House so Foster’s win does not affect the balance of power, simply adding a seat to that majority. All House seats and part of the Senate, as well as the presidency, are at stake in the November general elections.

Hastert retired in December, setting up Saturday’s special election for the balance of his term, which runs through this calendar year and into January when the new U.S. Congress will be seated. Oberweis, 61, and Foster, 52, will also face off in November for a full two-year term.

While the area has been a Republican stronghold for years, redistricting brought geographic changes and population shifts including more Hispanics and younger suburban families that changed its make-up. The 2008 edition of the Almanac of American Politics rated the district as “a tough one for Democrats to win but not impossible.”

Congressional campaign committees from both parties poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the contest.

The conservative Hastert was replaced as speaker in January 2007 by Nancy Pelosi, a liberal Democrat from California, after the Democrats took control of Congress in the November 2006 congressional elections.

Editing by Stuart Grudgings

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