U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Col. Larry Kaifesh claimed victory in the 8th Congressional District GOP primary Tuesday night, leading opponent Manju Goel with 71.5 percent of the vote with nearly all ballots counted.
Kaifesh will challenge Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth in November's general election.
With 423 of 430 precincts in Cook, Kane and DuPage counties reporting, Kaifesh had 24,001 votes to Goel's 9,585.
Though Kaifesh said he didn't have any professional poll watchers to give him an accurate account of the day's progress, his personal visits to various polling places throughout the day gradually gave him more confidence.
"As I went through the day, I felt better and better because I was getting a consistently positive message," Kaifesh said.
Initially optimistic about running a positive campaign, Kaifesh said he was deeply disappointed when the race with Goel turned messy and personal.
"I was hoping we could focus on the issues with an above-the-board campaign, but they went looking for issues and making us address what they were doing," Kaifesh said.
The appearance of a deceptive website and social media accounts set up by the SuperPAC Indian Americans For Freedom introduced a controversial element to the race.
The sites appeared at first glance to represent Kaifesh, but in fact discredited him.
Though the SuperPAC had been created two years earlier by Goel's chief supporter -- Carol Stream businessman Shalli Kumar -- both Goel and Kumar denied any further contact with or influence over the group.
When called upon to denounce the sites, Goel instead defended them at first, saying they contained useful and "accurate information" about her opponent.
Kaifesh said this represents an aspect of politics that probably keeps a lot of good people out -- but which he optimistically hoped would not have been a factor in the primary.
"It concerns me that some folks will fight and do whatever they have to to win, and the good guys will either get beat or want to leave," he said.
Goel could not be reached for comment Tuesday night, but Kumar said she thanked her supporters, conceded to Kaifesh and announced her return to the two most important aspects of her life -- her family and job in health care.
Kaifesh said he hopes it will be easier to stay focused on issues in his campaign against Duckworth, as he and the incumbent representative are more diametrically opposed on health care, the economy and the national debt.