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updated: 6/18/2011 11:52 PM

Foster launches campaign for new 11th district

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With the 2012 general election more than 16 months away, Bill Foster is wasting no time introducing himself to voters in the redrawn 11th congressional district.

Foster, who represented the 14th congressional district before losing his seat to Republican Randy Hultgren last year, held his first 2012 campaign rally Saturday at the Hickory Ridge Marriot Conference Hotel in Lisle.

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Suburban Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky and former congressional candidate Scott Harper, endorsed Foster at an event attended by about 50 supporters.

The Democrats hammered Republicans on Medicare and said it was important to show unity to regain control of the House.

"We have to be smart. We have to be strategic," Schakowsky said. "That's why we are here today."

Foster predicted voters who swept Republicans into Congress in 2010 would return Democrats to the House in a fit of buyer's remorse.

"The truth will be very inconvenient indeed for the Republicans in the upcoming election," Foster said. "We're going to win this thing."

The new 11th congressional district includes portions of Aurora, Naperville, Plainfield and Joliet. Foster, who lives in Batavia, just outside the new district, is not required to live there, but he says he may move into the district to be closer to friends and his potential constituents.

One former Democratic candidate, John Atkinson of Burr Ridge, lives within the new 11th district, but says he will not seek office there and on Saturday threw his support behind Foster, a former scientist for Fermilab.

Atkinson said Speaker of the House John Boehner, who spent Saturday golfing with President Obama, would not be happy to witness Saturday's show of unity in the new 11th district.

"He's seeing it all slip away as he walks off the golf course -- soon to be former speaker of the house," Atkinson said.

Atkinson mounted an unsuccessful challenge to Democrat Dan Lipinski in the 3rd district last year. So far, no other Democratic challenger has emerged in the new 11th district.

While strategically important, the rally might strike some as a bit premature: the new map, released by Illinois Democrats in late May, has not yet been signed into law by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. Even if Quinn does authorize the new map, Republicans, who say they were left out of the traditionally partisan process, have threatened to challenge it in court.

Foster, though, says there's nothing wrong with getting an early start, especially as he is new to many of the voters of the district.

"Most people assume the map will stand up," Foster said. "There's no reason not to go flat out."

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