Democratic US Rep. Lauren Underwood declared winner in Illinois' 14th District

Rick Pearson, Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, a first-term Illinois Democrat, won her reelection bid Thursday, narrowly defeating Republican challenger Jim Oberweis in Chicago’s west and north suburban and exurban 14th Congressional District, The Associated Press declared.

The AP’s call of the race came after Underwood’s advantage over Oberweis grew from 3,524 votes to 4,288 votes when an additional 2,910 ballots were reported by Will County authorities on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Oberweis said the Republican was not conceding and that his previous call for a recount stands.

The latest unofficial vote totals showed Underwood with 200,037 votes, or 50.5%, to 195,749, or 49.5%, for Oberweis.

Underwood said she was “honored” to win the support of the district’s voters for reelection.

“This was a tough race under some very difficult circumstances, and I want to say thank you to my supporters, the voters, and our elections officials for their diligent work,” she said in a statement.

“Whether you voted for me or not, I pledge to represent every member of this community. That’s my responsibility, and I take it seriously. It’s a privilege to bring northern Illinois voices and values to Washington and I can’t wait to build upon all that we’ve accomplished, together,” she said.

Underwood said the district and the nation face “urgent challenges” and would work on “protecting our families, ensuring a robust economic recovery and lowering the cost of health care.”

The contest between Underwood, of Naperville, and Oberweis, a state senator from Sugar Grove, was a surprisingly close one. Oberweis, who received little help from national Republicans, largely self-funded his campaign at a significant cash disadvantage to the freshman Democrat.

Underwood raised more than $7 million for her reelection while Oberweis raised about $3 million, including $1.7 million in personal loans. But Oberweis benefited in part by a late push by President Donald Trump for his base to turn out in a district with historic conservative Republican leanings and several rural areas.

In 2018, Underwood defeated three-term GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren of Plano by 5 percentage points, or roughly 15,000 votes. The 14th District and the suburban 6th District, won then by Democrat Sean Casten of Downers Grove, marked a blue suburban wave that took congressional seats from Republicans. Casten also won reelection.

It was the second time Oberweis lost a bid for the seat, losing in 2008. It joins a string of losses at the federal level for the investment and dairy magnate, which included unsuccessful bids for the U.S. Senate in 2002, 2004 and 2014. Oberweis also lost a 2006 bid for governor and was unsuccessful in a past bid for the state GOP chairmanship.

As a result of his bid for Congress, Oberweis could not seek reelection to the state Senate seat he has held since 2013. Jeanette Ward, a Republican seeking to replace Oberweis in Springfield, conceded her race against Democrat Karina Villa.

A day after the election, Oberweis claimed victory but Underwood expressed confidence that still-to-be counted vote-by-mail ballots in the district that extends through seven counties would be enough for her to win. Oberweis had vowed to seek a recount.

Underwood, a nurse, worked as a health policy administrator in President Barack Obama’s administration. She has said her candidacy came after Hultgren opposed provisions of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, that guaranteed healthcare coverage of pre-existing conditions.

The district includes parts of DuPage Kane, Lake, Will, McHenry, DeKalb and Kendall counties.

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