U.S. Rep. Biggert proud to be moderate; Democrat Foster says she’s been in office too long
BY NATASHA KORECKI Political Reporter @natashakorecki October 26, 2012 9:50PM
Candidates for the 11th Congressional district Republican Judy Biggert and Democrat Bill Foster shake hands before their debate at WTTW Wednesday October 24, 2012. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: November 29, 2012 6:41AM
U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert is not your typical conservative Republican.
She supports abortion rights, winning her praise from Planned Parenthood.
She also supports 2nd Amendment rights, earning her an A rating from the National Rifle Association’s political arm for her “pro-gun voting record.”
The 75-year-old grandmother styles herself a moderate, a badge she wears proudly.
“We lost a lot of moderates, I lost a lot of my friends,” in 2008 and 2010 elections, she said. “The problem we’re facing now is we’re moving to the right, and we’re moving to the left. I work from the center and we’ve got to get the two parties to get back together.”
Biggert herself is under fire, facing perhaps the biggest challenge of her 14-year congressional career, squaring off against former U.S. Rep. Bill Foster in a district redrawn by Democrats.
Foster, who served one term representing a neighboring district, is hitting Biggert hard, going on the offensive in debates and repeatedly casting her record as bad for seniors.
Foster is a Democrat from Naperville.
The west suburban 11th Congressional District features one of three hotly contested U.S House races in suburban Chicago, one that could help shift the balance of power in Washington.
Foster, 57, casts Biggert as a career-politician who has been in Washington too long.
The two have repeatedly locked horns in the highly competitive race, unleashing a flurry of negative ads against one another.
Biggert, of Hinsdale, has been in Congress for 14 years, but after a congressional remap, she’s running in a new district that stretches to Aurora and heavily favors Democrats. Foster, who lives in Naperville, is an ex-incumbent having served one term in Congress. He lives in the new district he wants to represent.
Foster has gone on the attack in recent debates and Biggert has appeared flustered at times, seeming to lose her train of thought and pausing at length before giving answers.
But one-on-one, she’s clear and becomes riled up when talking about campaign ads.
Biggert says she appeals to voters because she’s not extreme.
“I’ve worked a lot with Planned Parenthood. I like Planned Parenthood,” she said, adding that she supported keeping public funding for the group. “My party didn’t like that very much,” she says.
Biggert, who graduated from Stanford University, then Northwestern University Law School, was particularly peeved about a mail ad that she said left the impression that she and her husband took romantic getaways on the taxpayers’ dime.
Biggert said she’s gone on international trips — including Jamaica and Austria — funded by the Aspen Institute.
“They get us away from here… We talk about issues,” including nuclear and domestic issues as well as terrorism. “We go away, otherwise people would be on those things,” she says, pointing to an iPhone. “The spouses are invited so you really get to know the family.”
Both sides have poured money into their own campaigns while outside interests have also plowed cash into TV ads. Each has raised about $2.3 million a piece.
In an interview, Foster complained about the ads against him as not just negative, but flat-out false. The one that really gets Foster’s goat is one accusing him of laying off workers right before Christmas.
“It’s the response that you get from someone who is in politics too long,” he said.
“When you don’t have the facts on your side, you either make up new ones or you run away.”
Foster is a scientist who as a 19-year-old built computers in his parents’ basement and with his brother started a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.
Foster, who is criticized as a millionaire in ads admits he did not pay income taxes last year, saying he worked for a non-profit and then his campaign. He said he got his business started with a $500 loan from his parents. He said he knows what it’s like to sweat making payroll. Foster said he and his wife file separately and she did pay income taxes
He said like many companies, he had to lay off workers after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. But ultimately, the company remained intact.
“We made, starting from scratch, 650 manufacturing jobs and kept those jobs in the Midwest,” Foster said.
Biggert said she didn’t like negative ads but noted that they “move numbers.”
Foster has also been attacked in a TV ad that accused him of cashing in on investments in 2008 after having insider information from Congress.
“Look at her filings and come to your own conclusions. She is in the leadership of the financial leadership committee. She is a subcommittee chair,” Foster said. “If there were secret meetings, she’d get invited well before me.”
Ads attacking Biggert accuse her of threatening the future of Medicare while voting to raise her own pay nine times.
“She voted to raise her pay nine times,” Foster said. “If she views it as negative she shouldn’t have voted that way.”
Even with Biggert’s more moderate views, she and Foster still differ on issues.
Biggert supports abortion rights but she has some caveats — she doesn’t believe tax money should pay for abortions, she believes there should be parental notification for minors seeking abortions, as long the minor can bypass that by going to a judge — and she opposes late term abortion.
Foster calls himself: “100 percent pro-choice.”
Neither Biggert nor Foster believe in congressional term limits.
On gay marriage, Foster has touted himself as having come out of the swamp and now “happy to be a hominid” supporting it. He attacked Biggert for still being in “the swamp” on that issue even though he appeared to evolve his stance since the primary.
Biggert said she was “close” to supporting gay marriage, but does not. She is in favor of civil unions. She caused some Internet buzz this week after bungling her explanation for why she doesn’t support it, bringing up polygamy and bigamy in her explanation.
“It is a state issue,” Biggert said. “We don’t have polygamy and bigamy and all of these things in the federal government. It’s the states that take care of that.”