Underwood responds to Hultgren's Facebook attacks, asks to attend his town hall meeting

 
 
Updated 8/11/2018 7:58 PM
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  • Randy Hultgren is the Republican candidate and Lauren Underwood is the Democratic candidate for the 14th congressional district.

    Randy Hultgren is the Republican candidate and Lauren Underwood is the Democratic candidate for the 14th congressional district.

  • U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren

    U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren

  • Lauren Underwood

    Lauren Underwood

As congressman Randy Hultgren prepares to host a series of town-hall meetings in the 14th Congressional District this week, his most prominent Democratic constituent and challenger, Lauren Underwood, is trying to take the fight to him in hopes of sparking at least one public debate.

Underwood signed up for a chance to be in his town hall audience and ask her own questions.

Hultgren coasted to re-election victories in every race since taking the seat from Democrat Bill Foster in 2010. Without even having to debate any of his Democratic rivals, Hultgren consistently received about 60 percent of the votes cast come election time.

But Democrats see the district as winnable this cycle. Staffing, resources and money have all flowed to Underwood from the Democratic Party both near and far.

In recent weeks, the Facebook page of Hultgren's re-election efforts has slammed Underwood for various endorsements and campaign contributions.

"When you have Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris raising money for your campaign there can be little doubt whose interests you represent," read one post on Hultgren's page. "Lauren Underwood's values fit in better with people like Rosie O'Donnell and ultraliberal activists from California and New York than with the people of the 14th District."

Hultgren and his team also attacked an endorsement from former President Barack Obama and donations from Kirsten Gillibrand, a U.S. senator from New York, as evidence that Underwood has an "out of touch, progressive vision."

In an interview, other than the shot at Obama, Underwood said Hultgren's criticism comes from the same troubling place.

"It's interesting and unfortunate that in his attacks he's chosen to highlight and alienate strong women," Underwood said. "I'm proud to be supported by strong women, dynamic women that have led organizations, PTAs and homeowner associations.

"The women in this community have been a foundation and a sustainer for my campaign since the first day.

"For Randy Hultgren to see that and then decide to call out equally strong, dynamic female leaders and say that it's somehow negative they are supporting my candidacy is inappropriate and out of touch. It has a lot of roots in sexism and his own personal discomfort in being challenged by a strong woman."

In contrast to Underwood's characterization, Hultgren also recently praised on Facebook the public service of longtime state Rep. Patti Bellock as having had a "groundbreaking career, including becoming the first woman to serve as deputy minority leader." Hultgren and Bellock were part of the same freshman class of state lawmakers. Bellock is now the director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

Hultgren has received his own share of money from outside the district, including large donations from House Speaker Paul Ryan, Missouri Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer and the Koch brothers.

Barring a public debate, voters may not get to see Hultgren and Underwood discuss their different viewpoints face to face. But a series of public appearances Hultgren will make starting Monday, Aug. 13, may at least put the two candidates in the same room.

Hultgren is registering district constituents for his town halls. As a constituent, Underwood signed up for a chance to be in the audience and ask her own questions.

If selected, it will be the first time since Underwood entered the race after a St. Charles town hall a year ago that she'll have a chance to hear Hultgren speak in person.

"We've scared him out of hiding," Underwood said.

As of Friday morning, Underwood's campaign had no update on her request to attend any of the town halls.

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