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Dems jockey over who will run in proposed congressional districts

The fallout from Illinois Democrats’ majory redrawing of the state’s congressional map continued Saturday as former Rep. Bill Foster opened a campaign fund-raising account in preparation to run in a southwest suburban district that was actually drawn to favor a different Democrat.

Foster’s filing with the Federal Election Commission indicates that he plans to run in what will be the new 11th District, an oddly-shaped district resembling a genie coming out of a lamp. The district would include Joliet and Aurora, part of Foster’s old district.

But state legislative leaders want Foster, a physicist and businessman, to run in an expansive new 14th district that includes his home in Batavia and runs from far north suburban Antioch and Harvard to southwest suburban Minooka.

Democrats, who control both houses of the state Legislature, could approve the new congressional map Sunday.

The new map of the 11th district includes Burr Ridge, where insurance broker John Atkinson lives. Atkinson, though, has already raised $500,000 to launch a primary challenge in the 3rd district against Rep. Dan Lipinski, a conservative Democrat from the Southwest Side.

“I have serious policy differences with Dan Lipinski — I would prefer someone in that seat who wanted to work with the president,” Atkinson said Saturday.

But state Democratic leaders want Atkinson to win a new seat for Democrats in the 11th rather than challenge Lipinski, an ally of powerful state House Speaker Michael Madigan, who lives in the 3rd district.

Atkinson said Saturday he was still evaluating what to do.

“I’m not going to be rushed — this is not about who plants a flag first. This is about who puts together a campaign to be able to win,” he said.

Atkinson lives only a few blocks from Lipinski’s district, which will remain similar under the new map. Foster — who pulled off an upset in 2008 when he won the historically Republican far West Suburban 14th district of former House Speaker Denny Hastert but lost in amid last year’s Republican tidal wave to Randy Hultgren — lives only a few blocks from the new 11th district. Members of Congress are not required to live in the districts they represent, though living outside the districts can create a political problem.

The maps released Friday by state Democratic leaders sought to undo the massive gains last year by Republicans, who won four seats previously held by Democrats. All five of the state’s freshmen Republican were drawn into Democratic districts or mapped into confrontations with fellow Republicans.

Gov. Pat Quinn has said he will only sign off on the maps if they are “fair.” State Republican leaders implored him Saturday to recognize the maps as unfair and go back to the drawing board.

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