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UPDATED: 11/7/2012 6:45 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Trailing far behind Democrat Bill Foster, longtime Republican Congresswoman Judy Biggert has conceded the race in the 11th District.
“It has been a long and hard-fought race, but tonight the voters have spoken. I have called Bill Foster and congratulated him on his victory,” Biggert said in a statement Tuesday night. “Representing the people of this area has been the great honor of my lifetime. I can never thank them enough for their kindnesses towards me, their generosity with their ideas, their patience when we don’t see eye-to-eye, and their deep love of community and country.”
With 99 percent of the vote counted, Foster was leading Biggert 58 percent to 42 percent.
In his victory speech, Foster thanked Biggert for her long service to the people in her district.
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“Despite everything that gets said on the campaign trail, Congresswoman Biggert has always demonstrated a real commitment to public service,” Foster said.
Biggert, 75, has been in Congress since 1999. She’s served in the 13th District since then, but when the congressional districts were redrawn last year, she was moved into the new 11th District, which was drawn to favor a Democratic candidate.
Foster, a scientist from Naperville, served one term in Congress in the state’s 14th District, but was defeated in his 2010 re-election bid by Republican Randy Hultgren.
After the new congressional map for Illinois was drawn up last year, Foster set his sights on Biggert.
Biggert said it was a tough race from the beginning, especially since the district was redrawn last year to favor a Democrat.
“This has always been an uphill battle, but we just gave it our all,” she said. “The district was cut into six pieces, and I just … couldn’t see how it could be so over-the-top to really cut up all the districts so much, or make them so different. This was a D-plus, what we call a D-plus district. I knew it was going to be tough, but I thought I had to take a chance.”
Although their race perhaps did not get as much attention as the contest between Republican Joe Walsh and Democrat Tammy Duckworth in the 8th District, the battle between Foster and Biggert was seen as one of the most crucial for determining which party would control the House.
The race has generated nearly $8.7 million in outside spending.
And as proof of just how high the stakes are in this race, former president Bill Clinton, who’s been used as a “big gun” to drum up support for President Obama, recorded a last-minute “robocall” over the weekend, urging voters to support Bill Foster.
Both Biggert and Foster also have accused the other of unfair attacks during the race.
Biggert has run ads slamming how Foster has run his private business – specifically criticizing the company’s layoffs during the recession. Meantime, Foster has run ads hammering Biggert’s votes in Congress to raise her own pay, and accusing her of backing a “voucher” plan for Medicare and voting to privatize Social Security.
As the race ended Tuesday night, both candidates bemoaned the partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill, and the increasing role that outside money has played in elections.
“Our Democracy simply cannot survive in a world where 30-second attack ads – backed by unlimited money from unknown sources – are the only currency of political debate, instead of the thoughtful and quantitative debate on the important issues that our country faces, that our country’s future demands,” Foster said.
“Our country has faced so many challenges, and the only way that they will be met is by reaching across party lines – setting aside the differences, and caring more about the solutions than the soundbites or the next election,” Biggert said.