Bill Foster wasn't supposed to win like this.
The money was even. The polls reflected a dead heat for months.
Election night was supposed to be as down and dirty as the abundance of negative 11th Congressional District ads on TV.
But Foster took a lead over Republican rival Judy Biggert from the very first election returns and went on to beat her in almost every region of the district except for a handful of Cook County precincts.
"The margin of victory was much higher than we expected," Foster said Wednesday.
So how did Foster walk away with about 60 percent of the votes?
The simple answer is geography.
At first glance, about half of the new 11th Congressional District contains territory Biggert represents in her current 13th Congressional District.
But that doesn't mean those residents from the 13th were Biggert supporters.
In 2008, the last time Barack Obama was at the top of the ballot, Biggert only earned 54 percent of the vote over Democrat Scott Harper.
Harper actually beat her in the Will County portion of the 13th District in that race.
On Tuesday, 61 percent of the Will County portion of the new 11th District cast ballots for Foster. In Aurora, the margin was even greater. Foster took 70 percent of those votes.
After downplaying the notion that Illinois Democrats drew the district to favor him during the race, Foster admitted Wednesday that even the portions of the district in the more conservative DuPage County are tailor-made for him.
Foster won 52 percent of the DuPage vote. He said the boundaries run along what's known as the technology corridor in DuPage. That's where a lot of his old Fermilab colleagues live.
"It's an area where people would be very comfortable being represented by a scientist," Foster said. "But the margin of victory was well above what you would get from gerrymandering. "
Republicans weren't so sure.
GOP Congressman Peter Roskam said Biggert faced overwhelming odds.
"She ran a great campaign," Roskam said. "The underlying political geography of the map was a tough mountain to climb."
The demographics of the district likely also played a large role.
Even on election night, Republican pundits like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee decried a poor overall effort by the GOP to reach out to minority groups.
The new 11th Congressional District includes large swathes of Aurora and Joliet. Both have extensive numbers of minority voters, many of whom showed up to cheer Foster's support of the DREAM Act at a political forum in the final days of the race.
Foster pointed to his vote for the DREAM Act as a "major factor" in his win, not only in Aurora and Joliet, but also in majority Asian precincts in Naperville.
A final factor may have been the constant flow of negative advertising in the final weeks of the race.
Foster said Wednesday he was disappointed how the tone of the race steadily devolved into a constant effort to combat distortions of his positions and votes on various issues. He also admitted he reluctantly aired negative advertising of his own.
In the future, Foster said he's hoping for fewer 30-second smear campaigns and more extensive debates with opponents.
"It used to be that telling lies was a career-ending act," Foster said. "Somehow we've gotten away from that. We have to hold our politicians accountable."
Looking ahead, Foster said he's most excited about continuing to push for the DREAM Act, properly implementing Obamacare and ensuring the health of manufacturing jobs and the transportation network in the 11th District.
In a perfect world, he'll also be greeted in his return to Washington, D.C., by Republican colleagues ready to compromise.
"I think there is logic for a possible decision by the Republican Party to moderate some of their extreme stances," Foster said. "There was logic to their famously proclaimed first priority of making sure President Obama was a one-term president. They had good success with that initially. Obviously, that logic is gone now. If they continue to be obstructionists I don't believe that is going to be tolerated very well by the American people."
Biggert's staff said she would take a few days to rest and recover from the election before providing any retrospective comment on the race or her future.
• Daily Herald staff writer Marni Pyke contributed to this story.