Redistricting makes for a new era of Congressional politics in Naperville
By David Sharos For The Sun November 2, 2012 11:00AM
Candidates for the 11th Congressional district Republican Judy Biggert and Democrat Bill Foster shake hands before their debate at WTTW Wednesday October 24, 2012. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: December 5, 2012 6:28AM
The election on Tuesday figures to be compelling for a number of reasons, beyond the national presidential stakes.
Thanks to a constitutional requirement requiring redistricting every 10 years, Naperville finds itself cut up into three Congressional districts. It used to just be part of the old 13th District, which was heavily Republican.
Naperville will now be in the 6th, 11th and 14th Congressional district. The 6th has incumbent Republican Peter Roskam facing Democrat Leslie Coolidge; the 11th featured incumbent Republican Judy Biggert squaring off against Democrat Bill Foster; the 14th has incumbent Randy Hultgren of the GOP facing Democrat Dennis Anderson.
Former no-lose candidates like the Republican Biggert are finding themselves in a much tougher fight, says Suzanne Chod, assistant professor of political science at North Central College in Naperville.
Biggert is battling against Democrat Bill Foster of Naperville in the newly-drawn 11th District. The district, which includes not only Naperville but parts of Aurora and Joliet as well, is a much balanced district with a mix of traditional Republican and Democratic voters.
“The required redistricting puts a lot more pressure on the candidates as well as on the constituents in terms of what they need to do,” Chod argues. “There are strategy problems and voters often get confused by not knowing who is running and these types of things often affect voter turnout.”
Chod said the puzzle is compounded by this year’s presidential race.
“People may vote for president and skip the House races altogether because they don’t know enough about the candidates,” she said. “Someone like Judy Biggert used to be able to barely campaign but now she’s scrambling against a former Congressman who has money and experience. Constituents used to use things like incumbency and party as cues for voting, but now things are harder and there is a lot more voter responsibility.”
Chod believes metaphorically cutting the pie into three pieces rather than one does not affect the “clout” factor of Naperville, a view that Mayor A. George Pradel doesn’t completely share.
“I feel like it does kind of reduce our impact and that there is too much cutting things into too many pieces,” Pradel said. “As far as the candidates and voting goes, it’s true that candidates are going to have to work a lot harder. And this affects the voters because people develop habits and tendencies and many don’t like change.”
Pradel also laments the extra efforts the redistricting has caused regarding raising funds for elections and believes the extra money could be spent helping those who are hungry or even aiding the current victims of Superstorm Sandy.
“We know who the major candidates are,” he said. “I’d rather see the money go to starving people.”
Chod also believes the redistricting also gives Democrats a chance to expand their representation. “You’ve got 435 seats in the House and it’s a big puzzle trying to get equal representation with about 800,000 people per district,” she said. “The gerrymandering done by the Democrats allowed them to redistrict in a way where it’s more likely they could pick up some extra seats.”