Abortion inflation among key issues as challenger Catalina Lauf takes on incumbent Bill Foster in newly drawn suburban 11th Congressional District
He’s been in Congress for a dozen years, but U.S. Rep. Bill Foster is new to more than half of the voters in his district. But Foster identified one key issue that he says is driving many women, in particular, to his side: abortion.
He voted to make abortion access required by federal law, though the measure stalled in the Senate.
Lauf told the Tribune that abortion laws should be left to states to decide.
He’s been in Congress for a dozen years, but U.S. Rep. Bill Foster is new to more than half of the voters in his district. A change in boundaries for the 11th District, he acknowledged, means many voters there haven’t heard of the low-key incumbent.Republican challenger Catalina Lauf thinks Democrat Foster is out of touch with his newly drawn district in the west and northwest suburbs and beyond, and that voters are shocked by the far left’s “wokeness.” But Foster identified one key issue that he says is driving many women, in particular, to his side: abortion .Since the U.S. Supreme Court this summer ruled there is no constitutional right to abortion , Foster said, “It’s a huge issue with women across the political spectrum.” He voted to make abortion access required by federal law, though the measure stalled in the Senate.Lauf told the Tribune that abortion laws should be left to states to decide. In the primary campaign, Lauf’s campaign website presented her as opposing partial-birth and late-term abortion s, and defending gun rights, though those elements have been removed from her page in the lead-up to the Nov. 8 election. Instead, she is emphasizing three issues she says are angering voters and driving them her way: high prices, crime and illegal immigration.“We feel we have a home-field advantage,” she said of the new district. “Our parents and small business owners are very concerned with inflation and kitchen table issues.”A recent national poll by Monmouth University found that 82% of voters, especially independents, ranked inflation as a top issue, compared with 56% who named abortion as a top issue.The two candidates could hardly be more different. Lauf, a 29-year-old daughter of a Guatemalan immigrant mother who migrated legally and a small businessman from Woodstock, has been dubbed the anti-AOC, in reference to young Democratic firebrand U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.Lauf has never held political office, but worked for Uber and for Gov. Bruce Rauner’s failed reelection campaign. President Donald Trump appointed her as an adviser to the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2018.She ran for Congress in the 14th District in 2020 and lost, but was chosen to speak that year at the Republican National Convention. She’s now adviser to Begin Health, a children’s dietary supplement company.She initially planned to run against Trump nemesis U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, but when he stepped down last year, she announced her bid in the 11th District, which includes her hometown of northwest suburban Woodstock. She beat five other candidates to win the Republican primary in June with 31% of the vote.She raised more than $1 million for her primary campaign, but had only $26,000 on hand at the end of June, compared with nearly $4 million for Foster . One campaign fundraising request stated that she was “desperate” for funds. Foster was first elected to replace Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert in the 14th District in 2008, but lost in the conservative Tea Party wave of 2010. He was elected to the 11th District in 2012 and has been reelected, generally by wide margins, since then. Before his congressional career, Foster and his brother started Electronic Theatre Controls Inc., which makes digital lighting equipment. Foster worked as a high-energy physicist and particle accelerator designer at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or Fermilab, near Batavia. He lives in Naperville with his wife, and turned 67 Friday. Foster believes that health care should be a basic human right. He also supports comprehensive immigration reform. And he cites his work on the Dodd-Frank Act that put restrictions on banks after the Great Recession, saying the act helped prevent a bank meltdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.For this election, Democrats redrew the 11th District’s boundaries as part of a statewide remap meant to favor their party, as Republicans have done in other states. But the change eliminated Joliet from the district, and much of Foster ’s base in Aurora, Montgomery and Romeoville.Now, the district will stretch northwest from Bolingbrook, through parts of Aurora, Naperville, Batavia and St. Charles, to Crystal Lake, Woodstock and almost to Rockford.
In the primary, nearly 49,000 Republicans voted, with more than 44,000 votes for Foster , who had no opponent.
One recent controversy that arose in the race was Lauf’s tweet repeating claims that kitty litter boxes were being put in classrooms for “furries,” students who dress or role-play as animals. Such claims have been refuted by various fact-checkers.Asked about it, Lauf said that even if the claim isn’t true, far-left “woke” policies in schools have made such conditions possible. She cited the use of students’ preferred pronouns, and a new Illinois law that requires tampons be made available in girls and boys grade school bathrooms. While she blamed Foster for supporting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s agenda, Foster ’s campaign said she was pandering to Trump voters.
Normally, a midterm congressional election like this, particularly with President Joe Biden facing unfavorable ratings, would favor a Republican wave.
But Christopher Mooney, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said two major factors may reverse that: the abortion ruling and Trump’s continued controversies.Recent elections have been largely decided by suburban women, Mooney said, and many in Illinois do not like Trump or losing abortion rights .“That 35-year-old soccer mom, all her life she knew she could do it,” Mooney said. “If you take that away, that’s gonna motivate a lot of moderate and liberal women to turn out and vote.”