Underwood upsets Hultgren in 14th Congressional District

 
 
Updated 11/7/2018 12:07 AM
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  • Lauren Underwood celebrates with supporters as she arrives at the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles Tuesday. She defeated longtime 14th District congressman Randy Hultgren.

      Lauren Underwood celebrates with supporters as she arrives at the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles Tuesday. She defeated longtime 14th District congressman Randy Hultgren. Rick West | Staff Photographer

Democrat Lauren Underwood defied the odds Tuesday night in defeating four-term Republican incumbent Randy Hultgren in a district expressly drawn to favor a GOP candidate.

Underwood led by 10,735 votes with 98 percent of all precincts reporting unofficial results.

Underwood jumped out to an early lead Tuesday night, but Hultgren began closing the gap as some of the more conservative portions of the district began reporting their vote counts. Still, he never came within 5,000 votes of Underwood.

Underwood, in victory, becomes the first woman and first minority candidate to win a seat once represented by former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert. A Naperville native, Underwood lassoed a ready-made ground force of energetic Democrats who consistently picketed Hultgren's district office long before Underwood entered the race. That crew proved to be a vocal force on social media and an active army for local canvassing efforts on Underwood's behalf.

Underwood ignited her campaign with a plan to court Republican swing voters by concentrating on wedge issues like health care, abortion rights and criticism of the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on local constituents. But in the final weeks of the race, she spotlighted the health care issue and took a tone similar to many progressive Democrats across the country by trying to label Hultgren a false champion of people with pre-existing conditions.

Hultgren spent the early part of the campaign largely ignoring Underwood in a district drawn by Democrats to be largely safe for Republicans. But as money poured into Underwood's coffers and polls tightened, Hultgren made appearances with both President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan to ignite support from all factions of his GOP base. But even a last-minute attempt to discredit Underwood's nursing credentials failed to woo enough votes to retain the seat.

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