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Bill Foster has running start over John Atkinson in Illinois 11 House race

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WASHINGTON--Former Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), making a 2012 comeback bid in the new 11th congressional district, starts the contest in a much stronger position than potential Democratic rival John Atkinson, according to a poll Foster commissioned.

I was shown the entire Foster poll--by the Global Strategy Group--as Atkinson is weighing whether to run in the new 11th district--or stay with his original plan, to challenge Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) in the 3rd congressional district. Either way, Atkinson would face a Democratic primary.

The poll of 400 likely Democratic 2012 primary voters was taken between June 2 and June 5 and has a 4.9 percent margin of error.


Atkinson's problem, the poll shows, is that he is virtually totally unknown, while Foster has a running start as a former House member. Just six percent of the voters in the new district are familiar with Atkinson, compared to 41 percent for Foster.

In a head-to-head, voters in the survey gave Foster a 30 point lead, 36 percent to Atkinson, 6 percent.

The poll also found 20 percent of Foster's supporters said "they are certain to stick with Foster on Election Day," compared to one percent for Atkinson.

The Global Strategy polling memo for Foster concluded that Foster is "well-known and well-liked by voters in Illinois' 11th District, and while this is driven in part by support from his old constituents, his favorability and strength extend well beyond those voters to the rest of the district. "

Foster, elected twice from the current 14th congressional district--a March, 2008 special election to replace House Speaker Denny Hastert and an election for a full term in November, 2008--is running from the new 11th because it contains many communities--including Aurora--that were in his old district. Foster was defeated by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) last November.

Atkinson launched a primary campaign to challenge Dan Lipinski, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress. He owes his job to his father, former Rep. Bill Lipinski (D-Ill.) who is friends with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) who is also the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party.

Madigan made sure the pending Illinois congressional map did a major favor for Dan Lipinski. Atkinson's home was placed in the new 11th District--where there is no incumbent--in a move to try to lure him out of the race against Lipinski.

But all that did was set up a potential costly primary between Foster and Atkinson that Foster would like to avoid.

The Illinois map still must be signed by Gov. Pat Quinn and is certain to be challenged in federal court by Republicans because of its blatant Democratic tilt.

But if the lines stand, Democratic prospects are pretty good in the new district. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), remapped out of her district, could decide to run from the new 11th, since the district also contains areas she currently represents.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on June 9, 2011 6:32 AM.

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