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updated: 3/22/2012 5:21 AM

Is the 6th still GOP territory? Coolidge faces tough battle

Coolidge turns toward congressional fight with Roskam

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  • Leslie Coolidge

    Leslie Coolidge

  • Peter Roskam

    Peter Roskam


Leslie Coolidge won a decisive victory against her two 6th Congressional District opponents Tuesday in the Democratic primary, capturing 9,869 votes -- 54 percent of the unofficial total.

Pretty good for a political rookie.

But fresh off her victory over Maureen Yates and Geoff Petzel, Coolidge faces another daunting set of numbers: the more than 75,000 votes cast for Republican Congressman Peter Roskam, a Wheaton attorney.

Roskam ran unopposed, but the totals for the three Democrats combined -- a total of 18,122 -- account for only 20 percent of the votes cast in the district.

Coolidge isn't fazed.

"It's a Republican presidential primary, and that's what drew Republican voters," the Barrington Hills accountant said. "He's the only one running on the GOP ticket, so he benefitted from that."

It's worth noting that turnout this primary was flat with only 26 percent of registered voters going to the polls in DuPage County, which has the lion's share of the precincts.

Still, the high Roskam numbers are significant given the district was redrawn by state Democrats who changed it from a DuPage Republican stronghold to absorb parts of Kane, Lake and McHenry counties. Suburban Cook is in the old and new 6th Districts.

"I'm introducing myself to the communities in the new Sixth District and am listening to their concerns," Roskam said.

"There's much work to do to remove barriers to job creation, bring down gas prices and stop the federal government from spending money we don't have. I've learned about some unique water and transportation challenges that some residents face and look forward to assisting them if I am entrusted to represent them." Republican strategist Pat Durante puts the reconfigured 6th District at about 56 percent GOP. "It's a great Republican district," he said.

When crafting the remap, Democrats focused on the marquee matchup in the nearby 8th District pitting Iraq War veteran and Democrat Tammy Duckworth against Tea Party favorite and Republican Congressman Joe Walsh.

The map is Democrat-"heavy in the 8th (District) and weak in the 6th (District)," said Durante, a former top aide to iconic 6th District Congressman Henry Hyde.

Roskam is GOP chief deputy whip, the third-ranking Republican in the House.

While Coolidge raised $51,000, spent $90,000 and loaned her campaign around $45,000, Roskam raised nearly $1.8 million and spent about $812,000 in the election cycle, according to federal filings. He's also got several political action committees filling his war chest.

The national Democratic campaign organization is expected to put money into the 8th District as well as the 11th District -- a barnburner race between former Democratic Congressman Bill Foster and Republican Congresswoman Judy Biggert. Coolidge said she'll lobby for financial help from the party and groups such as Emily's List, a political action committee that supports pro-choice Democratic women.

"I'm not intending this to be a self-fundraising campaign. Now there's some time to focus on fundraising and certainly the intent is to raise more money than we have," Coolidge said.

Durante was skeptical. The Democrats will make promises but "won't give a dime against Peter Roskam," he said.

Bob Peikert, chairman of the Democratic Party of DuPage County, thinks Coolidge will win on issues by attracting suburban voters who are put off by Roskam's conservative record.

"I think Leslie has shown herself to be a very good campaigner. She's put together a staff, she knows what she needs to do to win," Peikert said.

One thing Coolidge and Roskam would agree on: It's time for a spotlight on the 6th Congressional District election.

"This is not a race that's been on the radar screen," she acknowledged. "Our intention is to get people focused on this race."

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