WASHINGTON -- The district represented by former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), expected to announce in a few weeks if he will run again, is seen by a political newcomer as promising for a Democrat, so much so that he is poised to put $1 million in his primary race.
A poll taken for Democratic House hopeful Bill Foster, 51, a Geneva businessman and scientist who worked 22 years at Fermilab, shows the potential for a horserace in turf viewed as Republican territory.
If Hastert ran again, he starts out ahead -- 55 percent according to the poll and with a 63 percent approval rating -- decent, but not a landslide.
It's a good guess at this point that Hastert may not seek another term. Hastert's chief of staff said he will make his decision in a few weeks. There is also a scenario that Hastert files for re-election and wins the primary, then pulls out in order to control tapping a successor GOP nominee of his choosing.
I don't write about polls unless I can see the entire survey and I did. The Foster campaign polling firm, Global Strategies, interviewed 402 likely voters in the the 14th Congressional District April 3-5 with a margin of error plus or minus 4.9 percent. The complete poll is interesting in that it showed that President Bush's unfavorables in the district are high -- 52 percent compared to 27 percent for Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and 46 percent for Gov. Blagojevich.
More hopeful for the Democrats in the far west suburban and Downstate district that almost stretches to the Mississippi River is this: In a "generic" House match-up for November 2008 (a nameless Republican vs. a nameless Democrat), Democrats trump Republicans 40 percent to 30 percent.
Foster filed papers with the Federal Election Commission noting that he intends to spend up to $1 million of his own money on his race. Also running are attorney Jotham Stein of St. Charles, the first to file and John Laesch, who was the 2006 Democratic nominee and got 40 percent of the vote. State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) may run if Hastert quits.
Foster brings an interesting resume to the contest. He made a fortune with his brother launching a company making theatrical lighting equipment and then went to work at Fermilab. He has a doctorate in physics from Harvard.
Pete Giangreco, a Foster consultant, said "if you tell a story about a Democratic candidate like Bill Foster, you are instantly competitive."