Rep. Judy Biggert (R)
Illinois 13th District
Most residents of Chicagoland now live not in the city but in the suburbs, and increasingly not even in Cook County but in the collar counties all around Cook. DuPage County, straight west of Chicago, had 103,000 residents in 1940; in 2007, there were 929,000, with new subdivisions still springing up at the western edges. This is not a one-trick county of bedroom suburbs. Since 1970, DuPage has generated nearly half the new jobs in metropolitan Chicago. In Oak Brook are the headquarters of Ace Hardware, Federal Signal, and most famously, McDonald’s and its Hamburger University, an 80-acre campus where more than 80,000 trainees have received Bachelor of Hamburgerology degrees since it was founded in 1961. Nearby are graceful, old railroad-commuter towns like Hinsdale and Downers Grove, but also Naperville, once a country village, now an edge city, with a school district that is top-ranked globally in science and a top-rated public library. The Argonne National Laboratory, which conducts basic and applied research in disciplines that range from high-energy physics to biotechnology, has sparked numerous private research firms along the Sanitary and Ship Canal, the Des Plaines River, and the Illinois and Michigan Canal.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 13th Congressional District of Illinois includes the southern part of DuPage County, including Oak Brook, Downers Grove, and Naperville; a small section of the southwest corner of Cook County; and a northern slice of Will County, including Bolingbrook, Romeoville, and Lockport. Money magazine rated Naperville No. 2 among the best places to live in the United States in 2006. Politically, this has been a heavily Republican area, suspicious of the motives and operations of Chicago Democrats, devoted to free enterprise and hostile to higher taxes. George W. Bush twice won the district with 55% of the vote. Barack Obama nearly reversed Bush’s numbers, winning 54% to 45%.
Rep. Judy Biggert (R)
Elected: 1998, 6th term.
Born: Aug. 15, 1937, Chicago .
Education: Stanford U., B.A. 1959, Northwestern U., J.D. 1963.
Family: Married (Rody); 4 children.
Elected office: Hinsdale Bd. of Ed., 1982-85; IL House of Reps., 1992-98.
Professional Career: Clerk, U.S. Ct. of Appeals, 1963-64; Practicing atty., 1975-98.
The congresswoman from the 13th District is Judy Biggert, a Republican first elected in 1998. She grew up in affluent Kenilworth on the North Shore, graduated from New Trier Township High School, Stanford University and Northwestern Law School, and then clerked for a federal appeals judge. She raised four children in Hinsdale, practicing estate and real estate law out of her home. She served on the Hinsdale Township Board of Education and in 1992, was elected to the state House, where she was a member of the leadership. Biggert started running for the U.S. House in 1997, when incumbent Republican moderate Harris Fawell announced his retirement. He endorsed her as his successor. In the campaign, she portrayed herself as a “former car pool mom and assistant soccer coach.” She supported abortion rights and opposed most gun-control measures. She had primary opposition from state Rep. Peter Roskam, who moved to the district to run (and later won the 6th District seat). Biggert put in $402,000 of her own money and got support from Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign. She won the primary 45% to 40% for Roskam and the general election 61%-39%.
|Judy Biggert (R)||180,888||(54%)||($1,585,536)|
|Scott Harper (D)||147,430||(44%)||($1,070,201)|
|Steve Alesch (Green)||9,402||(3%)|
|Judy Biggert (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (58%), 2004 (65%), 2002 (70%), 2000 (66%), 1998 (61%)
In the House, Biggert has a moderate voting record, especially on cultural issues. In 2008, after a five-year campaign by Biggert, Congress passed her bill barring employers and insurers from denying a job or a health insurance policy on the basis of genetic tests. On the since renamed Education and the Workforce Committee, she was the prime sponsor of a bill to allow employees to take compensatory time rather than overtime, a measure she said would allow flexibility for working parents. The AFL-CIO lobbied heavily against it, and Republican leaders canceled a roll call after it was apparent they didn’t have the votes to pass it. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, she strongly opposed a proposed school-voucher program for evacuees. In 2007, Congress enacted her proposal to ensure that homeless youth have equivalent access to student aid. Also that year, she and other moderate Republicans tried unsuccessfully to bridge partisan differences on a Democratic initiative to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. (But in February 2009, she voted against enactment of a more comprehensive measure signed by President Obama.)
Biggert has been a strong supporter of the Argonne Lab. On the Science Committee, she has sponsored bills authorizing hundreds of millions of dollars for university nuclear science and engineering programs and for the Office of Science. In 2004, she sponsored a successful bill authorizing the Energy Department to spend $165 million to build a supercomputer. Her challenge in the 111th Congress (2009-10) was trying to persuade appropriators to sustain a high level of funding for research as the economy slipped into a recession. The funding is needed, she said, to avert a “brain drain” at the national labs. Another area of interest for Biggert is public education. She has sponsored bills to ensure that homeless children get schooling, to help children with eating disorders and to finance school construction.
In 2009, Biggert became the ranking Republican on the Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. In the 110th Congress (2007-08), she had the senior minority slot on the subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, where she worked on the mortgage crisis and bailout of the financial markets. The panel rejected her plan to allow the FHA to negotiate 40-year mortgages to assist troubled borrowers. At the local level, Biggert has worked to secure funding for electric fish barriers on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to keep the huge Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes.
Biggert has ambitions to get into the Republican leadership in the House. In November 2000, she lost a contest for secretary of the Republican Conference. At the request of former Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert, she agreed to serve on the House ethics committee, the panel that investigates ethics complaints against House members. It is generally thankless work, but a stint on the committee is often later rewarded by grateful party leaders. Biggert was on the four-member ethics panel that in 2006 investigated the case of former Florida Rep. Mark Foley, a Republican who had acknowledged improper contacts with former pages to House leaders, who then failed to take action. Biggert’s panel detailed mistakes by Republican leaders and their top aides, but did not call for sanctions.
For years, she was not seriously challenged for re-election, even though in 1999, she abandoned her pledge to serve only three terms. But in 2008, she faced former health-care marketing executive Scott Harper, who criticized her as too friendly to corporate interests and out of touch with voters’ economic anxieties. He was competitive financially, raising over $1 million, and criticized her for being “asleep at the wheel” for initially voting against the financial markets bailout. She later voted to support the legislation. She won 54%-44%, getting 54% in DuPage County and 60% in the Cook County suburbs, but only 50% in the outlying Will County suburbs.