Endorsement: Underwood over Oberweis for Congress from District 14
For years, the 14th Congressional District was reliably Republican. When the district stretched almost to the Iowa border, Dennis Hastert won the seat 11 times. Randy Hultgren won the seat in 2010 and, for four terms, didn't struggle to keep it.
Until 2018, that is. Until Lauren Underwood came along.
Underwood, of Naperville, a registered nurse and former adviser to President Barack Obama on public health emergencies, took 57 percent of the vote in a seven-way Democratic primary, and then defeated Hultgren to win her first term in Congress.
One knock on Hultgren was a lack of face time with his constituents. Underwood promised to correct that, and she has done so.
Underwood is a textbook example of a legislator who understands the purpleness of her district. She has an electric personality. She's good with people and she listens to what they have to say. In such a vast district, which extends from Minooka to the Wisconsin border on the outer ring of the suburbs, she has shown up in just about every corner -- rural and suburban -- for chats and town halls.
Her ability to connect with people from many walks shows she can build consensus on the Hill.
While Underwood hews closely to Democratic Party planks in her votes, she prides herself on working in a bipartisan way to get legislation passed. That's important in a district whose long Republican roots indicate fundamentally centrist values. A few of her ideas -- notably controls on insulin prices -- have found their way into legislation President Donald Trump has signed.
The Republicans dearly want this district back, and it's sure to be a well-financed race getting nationwide attention. Underwood can measure up to the scrutiny.
She ran as a centrist two years ago and has worked hard to keep to that. Her challenger, dairy magnate Sen. Jim Oberweis, dismisses her as a "radical leftist," but that's an unfair characterization.
In an interview with the editorial boards of the Daily Herald and Shaw Media, her answers were well-reasoned and to the point. She avoided bickering, even when provoked.
Oberweis, a Republican state senator from Sugar Grove and the owner of Oberweis Dairy, stresses that his age and business acumen make him the candidate who can help rescue the nation's economy. He started his political career as a hard-nosed conservative, but his positions became more middle of the road over the years. He earned our endorsement in runs for the state Senate and went on to become an effective lawmaker.
But he has not made the case that he could be the kind of open-arms representative in a diverse district that Underwood has proved herself to be. He says Underwood is ill-prepared to be a member of Congress. We think otherwise. She built a solid record as a freshman in Congress and deserves another term.
We endorse her.