Darlene Senger has set her sights high for her next political campaign.
Standing before a group of about 30 supporters and media representatives Monday morning, the Republican state legislator and former Naperville City Councilwoman used the backdrop of the Municipal Center’s main entrance to end weeks of speculation by officially announcing her bid to unseat 11th District U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, also a Naperville resident and a Democrat, when his term is up next year.
Naperville Township Supervisor Rachel Ossyra, chairwoman of the Naperville Township Republican Organization and long a friend of Senger, provided the introduction for the newly-minted national candidate.
“I’ve seen her in action as a City Council member, on the campaign trail, as a community volunteer, as a great friend and as a mother,” she said.
She cited undertakings Senger has launched in the past, from making her way up the hierarchy to a vice presidency in Chicago’s financial sector to advocating for the DuPage Children’s Museum, as illustrations of her tenacity and willingness to work hard.
“My friend Darlene Senger does not run from challenges. Instead, she runs toward challenges,” she said.
Her first challenge in the upcoming election cycle will be facing a handful of opponents in the state primary scheduled on March 18, 2014. Senger’s opponents for the GOP nod currently include Grundy County Board member Chris Balkema; syndicated radio talk show host and Aurora resident Ian Bayne; and Craig Robbins. The primary winner will face Foster in the midterm general election Nov. 4, 2014.
In her remarks, Senger acknowledged her two children, Eric and Michelle, who stood at her side for the announcement, and commended her parents’ hard work in Hammond, Ind., where they struggled and made sacrifices to raise their family on a limited budget.
“I’m running for Congress because, like you, I am deeply concerned that our children may soon not have the same opportunities I had to succeed in the state of Illinois,” she said.
Although she noted that her professional path has not been easy so far, Senger expressed no regret over being able to stay home with her kids when they were small. That’s when the “journey” of a community volunteer began.
“I started through schools and the PTA, got very involved in the schools,” she said. “So if you’re a PTA mom, beware, because your activity could wind up with you doing this someday.”
Several local Republican office holders were among those on hand for the announcement, including state Sens. Mike Connelly, R-Lisle, and Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove; and DuPage County Board members Jim Healy, Tonia Khouri and Brian Krajewski. Former Naperville City Councilman Kenn Miller also was among those who attended.
Senger’s supporters see her range of experiences as valuable preparation for the nationwide political stage.
“I’ve seen her grow from a City Council member to a state representative, and now a candidate for Congress,” Ossyra said. “I’ve seen her put on one of the most key projects, which is pension reform.”
In Springfield, Senger has been involved in negotiations aimed at finding a solution for Illinois’ unfunded pension crisis.
“She never stops caring. She never stops working,” Ossyra said. “It doesn’t matter how slim the odds are.”
Healy agreed that Senger’s varied background suits her for service at the federal level.
“Darlene’s been a wonderful choice for City Council. She was a great choice for state rep, and she’ll be great for Congress,” he said. “This is not something knew that she has to learn ... She knows it.”
Foster wasn’t available to comment on Senger’s announcement, but his campaign released a press statement making note of his successes since taking office in January after defeating longtime U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Hinsdale.
“Congressman Foster is focused on the job he was elected to do — serving the people of the 11th District,” the statement reads. “Throughout his term, Congressman Foster will continue to focus on creating jobs and opportunity for the people of the 11th District and passing common sense immigration reform that secures our borders, improves our current immigration system and provides a path to citizenship for immigrants who are willing to work hard and play by the rules.”
Brandon Lorenz, regional press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was more direct with his response.
“It should be no surprise that Darlene Senger, who is part of the problem in Springfield, has spent months cozying up to national Republicans who have given us nothing but gridlock and dysfunction in Congress,” Lorenz said in a statement issued late Monday morning. “With an extreme record of working to end a woman’s right to choose and her opposition to marriage equality, it’s no wonder that Darlene Senger has already been rejected by Illinois’ middle class families.”
Noting that “at the end we’re the sum of everything that we bring to the table,” Senger expressed optimism that her support in next year’s primary and general election will be broad-based and robust.
“All we are asking out of Washington is to give us a fair shake to succeed. None of us are afraid of hard work, long hours or failure,” she said. “But only through change in Washington, and by changing our congressman, will we be able to restore hope and opportunity.”