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Article updated: 11/7/2012 1:18 AM

Democrats take all three targeted House seats; GOP eyes governor's race

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A year and a half ago, Democratic Congressional Committee Chair Steve Israel called the Chicago suburbs the "center of gravity" in the party's fight to reclaim a House majority.

Israel's predictions rang largely true Tuesday. Though not regaining the House, Democrats picked up all three targeted seats in the suburbs, unseating three Republican members of Congress -- two freshmen and one seven-term veteran.

Democrat Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates won in the 8th Congressional District, Naperville Democrat Bill Foster won in the 11th District and Deerfield Democrat Brad Schneider won in the 10th District.

Yet, those races didn't come without a fight, as the Democrats and outside groups were forced to pour millions into winning the races.

While Democrats were celebrating Tuesday, Republicans tempered their losses by noting that putting up tough fights may have helped the GOP maintain the U.S. House majority overall.

"We forced the Democrats to spend a ton of money on those races," Illinois GOP chair Pat Brady, of St. Charles, said Tuesday night. "Ultimately (we helped) the goal nationally; we still have Speaker John Boehner."

The suburbs, which saw booming growth over the last decade, were the prime meat in the proverbial fattened calf -- filleted to produce congressional districts that would help assure a Democratic majority in the state's delegation over the next 10 years.

"The map is what it is," Brady said. "We can't complain about the map."

The new 8th Congressional District created an open seat that contained some of the most independent voting portions of Northwest Cook and DuPage County -- including Addison, Hanover and Elk Grove townships, and parts of Wheeling Township.

Duckworth handily defeated Republican Congressman Joe Walsh Tuesday by more than 10 percentage points, according to unofficial totals.

In Illinois' 10th District on the North Shore, Republican Congressman Robert Dold was said to occupy the most Democratic-leaning seat held by a Republican congressman. While he portrayed himself as an independent molded in the image of his fiscally conservative and socially moderate predecessor Mark Kirk, Schneider's deep ties to the district's Jewish community helped peel Republican votes back.

Centered around Aurora and Joliet, the new 11th District also includes parts of Naperville and Lisle. Its growing Hispanic population helping propel Foster to victory over Hinsdale Republican Judy Biggert, who was first elected in 1998. She conceded in a 10 p.m. call to her opponent.

Brady, nearly immediately, turned his focus to the 2014 Illinois governor's race. That battle, analysts say, will require Republicans to do some reflecting on losses in refining its strategy.

"You'll have one side that says, 'We weren't strong enough in our message,'" David Yepsen, director of Southern Illinois University's Paul Simon Institute, said. "You'll have another group that says, 'We have to dive to the center.' That argument begins tomorrow."

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