AP projects Underwood to win 14th District, but Oberweis vows to fight on
The Associated Press has projected incumbent U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood to be the winner over Republican state Sen. Jim Oberweis in her tightly contested race for reelection to her 14th District seat.
The projection came just after 2 p.m. Thursday, with Underwood, a Democrat from Naperville, leading the contest 200,037 votes to 195,749 for Oberweis, a dairy magnate from Sugar Grove.
More votes were added to Lake County's total later in the day, giving Underwood a 200,638 to 196,034 lead and 50.58% of the total.
"I am honored to be reelected to represent Illinois' beautiful 14th District in Congress," Underwood said in a statement released by her campaign. "This was a tough race under some very difficult circumstances, and I want to say thank you to my supporters, the voters, and our elections officials for their diligent work.
"We face urgent challenges as a community and a country," she added. "I remain focused on getting results: protecting our families, ensuring a robust economic recovery, and lowering the cost of health care. Whether you voted for me or not, I pledge to represent every member of this community."
But the Oberweis campaign issued a statement saying the AP's projection changes nothing in the race.
"Illinois election law has provisions to allow parties in a closely contested race to seek a recount to ensure that all legal votes are counted and to ensure that the final outcome is the right outcome," campaign spokesman Travis Akin said. "There are still votes that have yet to be counted. The totals at this point are unofficial totals as the race has yet to be certified. We are committed to exploring all of the legal options at our disposal and will pursue these options that are afforded our campaign under law."
Oberweis led the race after Election Day counting and even declared victory in a video posted on social media a day after the election.
But as the tallying of vote-by-mail ballots proceeded, Underwood narrowed the gap and took the lead Saturday night. She's remained in front ever since, her lead growing with each update.
While there likely are some ballots left to be counted, the AP believed the 4,228-vote edge for Underwood at the time of its declaration was insurmountable for Oberweis.
Ballots postmarked by Election Day that arrive at election offices by Nov. 17 still will be counted, as will provisional ballots.
It's also likely Oberweis will pursue a recount once all the ballots are processed. Under state law, a candidate within 5% of the winner can request what's called a discovery recount, in which up to 25% of a district's precincts can be reviewed, at a cost of $10 per precinct to the challenger. The candidate can then take information learned from the recount before a judge to challenge the election results.
Despite the projected outcome, Oberweis has fared better in the race than many anticipated.
"My read on the Oberweis race, and to a lesser extent (6th District U.S. Rep. Sean) Casten's, is that I overestimated the impact of the demographic/cultural change on the 6th and the 14th based in the 2018 results," said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield. "There is still a lot of Republican strength in those districts. I also did not take into account that the impact of a presidential election and the president's strength in his base had on turnout. Both of those factors made Oberweis and (Casten's Republican challenger Jeanne) Ives stronger candidates than I anticipated.
"In retrospect, I am sure the national Republicans wish they had spent some of that money they used to bury (Democrat Betsy) Londrigan in the 13th District in the 6th and 14th instead," he said.
Underwood first won her seat in 2018 by beating Republican incumbent Randy Hultgren as part of the blue wave that swept Democrats into a House majority.
• Daily Herald staff writer Russell Lissau contributed to this story