Thirty-one-year-old Lauren Underwood was the youngest black woman running for Congress this year. She had some powerful allies in her race against Republican incumbent Randy Hultgren in Illinois’ 14th District: Former Vice President Joe Biden stumped for her recently, and former President Obama endorsed her at a rally in Chicago on Sunday. Underwood is a nurse, and had served as an adviser to the Department of Health and Human Services under Obama. Tuesday night, she won.
It’s a decisive swing left in a surprising place: a white, solidly Republican district where Hillary Clinton narrowly lost in 2016. Hultgren won his seat by 19 percentage points that year. But this year, he raised just half of Underwood’s $4 million haul. “I learned to be a black woman in this community,” Underwood told the New York Times last summer, after she beat six men in her primary. “This is my home, and the idea that I might not be a good fit is an idea I never gave a lot of consideration to.” Between Underwood, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Abby Finkenauer, there are suddenly a few very young, very talented Democratic women in Congress.
Underwood was the most exciting win for Democrats in Illinois, but the party secured other notable victories in the state, too. Republican governor Bruce Rauner conceded to Democrat J.B. Pritzker less than an hour after polls closed. Democratic Congressman Brad Schneider defeated Republican Doug Bennett in the suburban 10th Congressional District, which has swung back and forth in recent elections. And in the 6th District, businessman Sean Casten decisively defeated the six-term incumbent, Peter Roskam. The district has been held by Republicans since 1973.
Throughout the campaign, the restrained Roskam had tried to focus on Casten’s brash personality. On Twitter last year, for example, Casten called GOP donors “the top 0.2 percent, 80 farmers and morons.” Roskam told the Guardian recently that his opponent had “embraced the attributes of Donald Trump that this district doesn’t like: the name-calling, the tweeting and some of the vitriol.” His campaign produced a web ad that condemned Casten’s professed admiration for sex columnist Dan Savage. Apparently, voters didn’t mind. And now Roskam, like Hultgren, is out of a job.